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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did any of us see this coming? on: October 15, 2014, 09:05:20 PM

Risk of Deflation Feeds Global Fears
Falling Commodities Prices Pressures Central Banks
By Jon Hilsenrath and Brian Blackstone
Oct. 15, 2014 8:26 p.m. ET

Behind the spate of market turmoil lurks a worry that top policy makers thought they had beaten back a few years ago: the specter of deflation.

A general fall in consumer prices emerged as a big concern after the 2008 financial crisis because it summoned memories of deep and lingering downturns like the Great Depression and two decades of lost growth in Japan. The world’s central banks in recent years have used a variety of easy-money policies to fight its debilitating effects.

Now, fresh signs of slow global economic growth, falling commodities prices, sagging stock markets and declining bond yields suggest the deflation risk hasn’t gone away, particularly in the often-frenetic eyes of investors. These emerging threats come as the Federal Reserve is on track this month to end a bond-buying program that has been one of the main tools in its fight against falling prices.

The deflation concern is particularly pronounced in Europe and Japan, two economies where policy makers are struggling to come up with solutions to counter especially slow economic growth.

However, recent declines in commodities prices suggest that downward pressure on inflation—if not all-out deflation—could become a wider-ranging phenomenon, and one with some mixed implications for economies like the U.S. and emerging markets.

Investor worries about the global economy appeared to gather force Wednesday. European stock markets sagged; the Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 3.2% to its lowest level since last December. U.S. stocks pared steep losses, but still finished down for the fifth straight day; after falling more than 450 points at one point, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 173.45, or 1.1%, to 16141.74.

Meantime, yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes fell to 2.091%, their lowest level since June 2013, and are down nearly a percentage point from the beginning of the year. Bond yields fell to new lows in Germany, too. Crude-oil prices dropped further; crude futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange fell to $81.78 a barrel, the lowest level since June 2012.

The deflation concerns are particularly acute in Europe, where annual inflation in the 18 nations that use the euro was 0.3% last month, a five-year low that is far below the European Central Bank’s target of just under 2%.

With inflation so low, it wouldn’t take much of a shock—such as weakness in Germany’s economy or geopolitical tensions in nearby Ukraine—to tip the whole region into a deflationary downturn. Some eurozone countries, such as Italy, have already tipped into deflation. Even countries outside the currency bloc are feeling the pain. Sweden’s statistics agency said Tuesday that consumer prices fell 0.4% in annual terms last month after a 0.2% fall in August, well below its central bank’s 2% target.

The risk of deflation in Europe is “a real worry,” Harvard University professor and former Federal Reserve governor Jeremy Stein said in an interview. “The right prescription [for policy makers] is to be aggressive.”

ECB President Mario Draghi acted against deflation risks in June and September, pushing the central bank to slash interest rates to record lows each time—including a negative rate on bank deposits at the ECB—and unveiling new bank-lending and asset-purchase plans for asset-backed securities and covered bonds.

But there is little consensus for more-dramatic measures—the kind of monetary stimulus the Fed, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan have deployed—namely large-scale purchases of government bonds to raise the money supply.

The head of Germany’s central bank, Jens Weidmann, has signaled his opposition to such bond buying, and other members of the ECB’s governing council appear sympathetic to his argument that with government and corporate borrowing costs already superlow, the policy wouldn’t even do much good.

“I am very much for a steady-hand approach, and I think this is what we are doing,” Austria’s central bank governor, Ewald Nowotny, said in an interview last week.

Hard fiscal problems are part of Europe’s problem. Last week, Standard & Poor’s stripped Finland of its triple-A credit rating and downgraded France’s outlook. On Tuesday, Fitch put France on review for a possible downgrade.

Struggling economies such as France and Italy face a tough choice: Take additional austerity measures to shrink budget deficits, inflicting more pain on their economies, or attempt to flaunt the EU’s budget rules calling for low deficits, which could damage their credibility in Europe.

ECB chief Mario Draghi, shown in Washington this past weekend, faces opposition to further measures to combat deflation in the eurozone.R Reuters

The resistance Mr. Draghi faces has shaken the faith of some investors that policy makers in Europe will address the threat.

“Market valuations, especially for rich countries, have been well above what was warranted by fundamentals. What kept them up there was a belief that central banks were markets’ best friends,” said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz Group. “Most people now recognize that the ability of central banks to address what ails the global economy is weaker than they believed.”

Meanwhile, Japan had recently begun to stir sustained growth, which helped to push its inflation rate above 1%, after years of on-again, off-again deflation. But inflation decelerated again in recent months as the economy softened after an April sales-tax increase meant to restrain mounting government debt. Many private economists forecast a slip back below 1% this year.

Japanese officials must now decide whether to follow through on another planned sales-tax increase that could dent growth even more. And the Bank of Japan is weighing whether it needs to provide even more stimulus. BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda launched new asset purchase programs last year to reverse two decades of deflation and has pledged to persist until he reaches the 2% target.

Japan’s struggles to exit deflation, even with massive central-bank stimulus, illustrate just how difficult it is for an economy to pull out of the trap, once it has settled in.

A weak global outlook “has to be a worry for every economy,” Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last week.

The U.S. confronts much different circumstances than Europe and Japan. U.S. inflation had been rising toward the Fed’s 2% objective earlier this year but now faces a downward tug amid the weakening global growth and a strengthening U.S. dollar. The Labor Department reported Wednesday that producer prices in the U.S. fell in September. Sharp drops in commodities prices this month could add to downward pressure.

Yet falling commodities prices have silver linings. For one, the decline is being driven in part by a U.S. energy production boom—not just sagging global demand for goods. Moreover, falling gasoline prices are a boon to U.S. consumers: One rule of thumb is that every one-cent drop in the price of gasoline amounts to a $1 billion boost to U.S. household incomes, and gasoline prices have dropped by 13 to 17 cents from a year ago, according to the automobile group AAA.

“All else equal, when energy gets cheaper, we benefit,” Mr. Stein said.

Meanwhile, the Fed is on track this month to end its bond-buying stimulus program launched in September 2012. And Fed officials have largely stuck to their line that they expected to start raising short-term interest rates by the middle of 2015. Still, traders in futures markets have been pushing up the prices of contracts tied to the Fed’s benchmark interest rate—a sign they see diminishing odds that the Fed will follow through on that plan.

Harvard’s Mr. Stein said he didn’t think the U.S. central bank needed to alter its thinking much in light of recent developments. “I wouldn’t dramatically revise my expectations,” he said. “The balance of the job-market news in the U.S. has been very positive.”

A Commerce Department report Wednesday showed U.S. retail sales dropped in September, but many economists are sticking to estimates that the U.S. economy expanded at a rate in excess of 3% in the third quarter, potentially the fourth time in the past five quarters it exceeded 3%. Moreover job growth has been stronger than Fed officials expected.

Write to Jon Hilsenrath at and Brian Blackstone at
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Ebola on: October 15, 2014, 09:02:23 PM
Here ya go: 

(For the record, I'm not sure I agree 100%, but I offer it here for conversation)

How the U.S. Made the Ebola Crisis Worse
The total number of Liberian doctors in America is about two-thirds the total now working in their homeland.
E. Fuller Torrey
Oct. 14, 2014 7:19 p.m. ET

Amid discussions of quarantines, lockdowns and doomsday death scenarios about Ebola, little has been said about the exodus of Africa’s health-care professionals and how it has contributed to the outbreak. For 50 years, the U.S. and other Western nations have admitted health professionals—especially doctors and nurses—from poor countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, three nations at the heart of the Ebola epidemic.

The loss of these men and women is now reflected in reports about severe medical-manpower shortages in these countries, an absence of local medical leadership so critical for responding to the crisis, and a collapse or near-collapse of their health-care systems.

Although Africa bears 24% of the global disease burden, it is home to just 3% of the world’s health workforce. A 2010 World Health Organization assessment of doctors, nurses and midwives per population listed Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in the bottom nine nations in the world in medical manpower.

In Liberia, a nation of four million people, the number of Ebola cases is said to be doubling every 15-20 days. Based on news reports, I’ve estimated that there were about 120 Liberian physicians in the country prior to the outbreak.

According to an American Medical Association database, in 2010 there were 56 Liberian-trained physicians practicing in the U.S. This number does not include other Liberian physicians who emigrated to this country, were unable to pass state licensing exams, and are employed as technicians, administrators, or in other jobs. Older studies suggest that the number failing such exams is about half of those licensed.

Thus the total number of Liberian physicians in the U.S. is probably about two-thirds the number in Liberia. In addition, Liberian-trained physicians live in Canada, Great Britain and Australia.

The Liberian situation is not exceptional. Altogether in 2010 the U.S. had 265,851 licensed physicians trained in other countries, constituting 32% of our physician workforce, according to the AMA. Among these, 128,729 came from countries categorized by the World Bank as being from low- or lower-middle income countries. These physicians tend to work disproportionately in rural and inner-city jobs less favored by American medical graduates. West Virginia, for example, has the highest proportion of foreign-trained physicians from poorer countries to U.S.-trained physicians.

The U.S. has always welcomed health professionals from other countries. However in 1965, responding to a perceived shortage of physicians for the growing U.S. population, Congress passed landmark immigration legislation giving preference to health professionals. Subsequent legislation in 1968, 1970 and 1994 further opened the door, especially for physicians from poorer countries. The percentage of foreign-trained physicians has steadily increased from 10% of the workforce in 1965 to its current 32%.

Many objections to this policy have been raised over the years. In 1967 Walter Mondale, then a senator from Minnesota, called it a disgrace. It was “inexcusable,” he wrote in the Saturday Review, that the U.S. should “need doctors from countries where thousands die daily of disease to relieve our shortage of medical manpower.”

A 1974 report on the “Brain Drain” for the House Foreign Affairs Committee noted that the current policy was widening the gap between rich and poor nations, and warned that the policy “has a great potential for mischief in the Nation’s future relations with the LDC [less developed countries].”

Despite such complaints, U.S. policy has continued to encourage the immigration of physicians and other health workers from poorer countries. “There’s nothing wrong with a foreign-trained doctor,” Casper Weinberger, then secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, said on TV in 1973. “Of course we’re using a lot of them, and will use a lot more.”

The consequences of this policy may be more than “mischief.” Ebola may be merely the first of many prices to be paid for our long-standing but shortsighted health manpower policy. Surely the wealthiest country in the world should be able to produce sufficient health workers for its own needs and not take them from the poorest countries.

Dr. Torrey is associate director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute and author of “American Psychosis: How the Federal Government Destroyed the Mental Illness Treatment System” (Oxford, 2013).
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Qatar to the Gaza Strip on: October 15, 2014, 08:24:29 PM
second post

Guest Column: The Road from Qatar to the Gaza Strip
by Reuven Berko
Special to IPT News
October 15, 2014

 In a recent speech, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor mentioned the central role of Qatar in supporting international terrorist organizations. Money flowing from Qatar to Hamas, for example, paid for the terrorist attack tunnels dug from the Gaza Strip under the security fence into Israeli territory, and for the thousands of rockets fired at Israeli civilian targets in both the distant and recent past. In response, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf rushed to Qatar's defense, claiming it had an important, positive role in finding a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Qatar's funding for Islamist terrorist organizations all over the world is an open secret known to every global intelligence agency, including the CIA. It was exposed by Wikileaks, which clearly showed that funds from Qatar were transferred to al-Qaida. Qatar also funds the terrorist movements opposing the Assad regime in Syria, such as the Al-Nusra Front, encourages anti-Egyptian terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula and within Egypt itself, and is involved in Islamic terrorism in Africa and other locations. It accompanies its involvement in terrorism targeting Israel and Egypt (through the Muslim Brotherhood) with vicious and inflammatory propaganda on its Al-Jazeera TV channel.

Qatar also spends millions of dollars supporting the Islamic Movement in Israel, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood headed by Sheikh Ra'ed Salah. The Islamic Movement is responsible for ongoing acts of provocation on the Temple Mount and in Judea and Samaria, and incites the entire Islamic world against Israel, claiming that the Jews are trying to destroy the Al-Aqsa mosque and replace it with the Jewish Temple. The incitement continued even as the Islamic Movement's sister movement, Hamas, fired rockets at Jerusalem and endangered both the mosques on the Temple Mount and Jerusalem's sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

As Qatar's representative, the Islamic Movement, which has not yet been outlawed in Israel, contributed to Hamas what it could during Operation Protective Edge by instigating riots, blocking roads and seeking to foment a third intifada which, according to the plan, would be joined by Israeli Arabs to augment the deaths of thousands of Israelis killed by rockets and the mass murders through the attack tunnels planned for the eve of the Jewish New Year.

In his recent UN speech, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebutted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' accusations of Israeli "genocide" of the Palestinian people. He reminded his audience of Hamas' use of Gazan civilians as human shields and of the rockets fired to attack specifically civilian Israeli targets. Unfortunately, he did not mention the Hamas charter, which calls for the murder of all the Jews. The fact that Abbas now heads a national consensus government in which Hamas is a full partner commits him to the slaughter of the Jewish people – a true genocide – and it is to the disgrace of the international community that such an individual was permitted to address the UN instead of being tried for war crimes.

In fact, the similarities between Hamas and ISIS are clearly stated in the Hamas charter, which defines Hamas as part of the Muslim Brotherhood's global Islamic movement. One of its objectives is to fight "infidel Christian imperialism" and its Zionist emissaries in Israel in order to impose the Sharia, Islamic religious law, on the world. According to the charter's paragraph 7, Hamas' intention is to slaughter every Jew, as ordered by Muhammad and those who accept his legacy. That is the basis for the threat issued by ISIS "Caliph," Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, that under his leadership, Islam will "drown America in blood."

Throughout its history, Hamas, like ISIS, has been committed to the concept of the global caliphate, which it plans to help construct by creating its own Islamic emirate on the ruins of the State of Israel. Since its founding, Hamas has attacked Israel and murdered thousands of its citizens exactly as ISIS has attacked and murdered "infidels." They share the same slogans, with "There is no god but Allah" and "Allah, Prophet Muhammad" inscribed on their flags and headbands. Hamas terrorists have blown themselves up in Israel's coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, buses, malls and markets, wherever there are large concentrations of civilians. The way Hamas executed suspected collaborators during the final days of Operation Protective Edge bore the hallmarks of the al-Qaida execution of Daniel Pearl and the ISIS beheading of James Foley and others.

In the decades during which Hamas has carried out a continual series of deadly terrorist attacks against Israel, wearing the same "Allah, Prophet, Muhammad" headbands as ISIS terrorists, the international community rarely voices its support for Israel, or takes into account that by defending itself Israel also defends the West, which has failed to understand that "political Islam" inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood was setting up shop in the free world's backyard and that the ticking bomb was set to go off sooner than expected. The West has not clearly condemned Qatar for openly supporting Hamas and its terrorist activities against Israel or demanded that it stop.
While Israel responded to Hamas' rocket attacks on civilian targets to keep thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Israeli civilians from being killed, the international community demanded "proportionality." That requirement kept Israel from responding as it should have and encouraged Hamas to fire ever more rockets at "military targets" such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When Israel built its security fence to keep Hamas suicide bombers from infiltrating into Israeli territory to blow themselves up in crowds of civilians, the international community opposed it, rushed to embrace the Palestinians' vocabulary of "racism" and "apartheid," and willingly played into the hands of Hamas and Abbas. This reaction occurred although Israel is the only truly democratic country in the Middle East, where Jews and Arabs can live in peace without "apartheid."

Today President Obama says he "underestimated" the threat posed by ISIS, while Israel has been warning the world of extremist military Islam for at least a decade, as Netanyahu warned the world of a nuclear Iran in his UN speech.

The international community has been curiously silent about the genuine apartheid in the Arab states neighboring Israel. There, descendants of the original 1948 Palestinian refugees, by now in their fourth generation, still live in refugee camps, do not have citizenship, and are excluded from jobs and social benefits. Israel, however, absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees, many of them destitute, who fled Europe and were expelled from the Arab countries when the state was founded, and were given citizenship and enjoy full rights, as do the Arabs who remained in Israel after the War of Independence.

Israel, which has nothing against the Palestinian people, would like to see the Gaza Strip rebuilt for both humanitarian reasons and to give Hamas something to lose. Radical Islamic elements around the globe, however, including Hamas, ISIS, al-Qaida, the Al-Nusra Front and Hizballah, all financed by Qatar, do not want to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolved. They all have the same global agenda, based on fueling the conflict to unite Islam around it, under their leadership.

Therefore, Qatar continues to support global Islamic terrorism. On Sept. 13, Qatar paid the Al-Nusra Front a ransom of $20 million to free abducted UN soldiers from Fiji. The world praised Qatar for its philanthropy, but in effect, it was a brilliant act of manipulation and fraud, both filling the Al-Nusra Front's coffers and representing itself as the Fijians' savior. Qatar is using the same underhanded trick in the Gaza Strip. After sending Hamas millions of dollars to fund its anti-Israeli terrorist industry, it pledged $1 billion to help rebuild the Gaza Strip during last weekend's conference in Cairo.

While the world hopes Operation Protective Edge was the last round of Palestinian-Israeli violence, senior Hamas figures reiterate their position of gearing up to fight Israel again. Not one Hamas leader is willing to agree to a full merger with the Palestinian Authority to establish a genuine unified Palestinian leadership. Hamas rejects even the idea of disarming or demilitarization as part of an agreement to rebuild the Gaza Strip and promote the peace process. Unfortunately, no one has suggested it as a pre- condition for any U.S. dollars that will be contributed to the reconstruction of Gaza.

All that is left now is to hope that the billions of dollars poured into the Gaza Strip for its rebuilding will be accompanied by the disarmament of Hamas and the establishment of an honest mechanism for overseeing the money and materials Egypt and Israel allow into the Gaza Strip. It is imperative that they not be diverted to rebuild Hamas' terrorist infrastructure and tunnels, or to bribe UNRWA officials to look the other way, as has happened so often in the past. There is every indication that only Hamas and Qatar know whether there is anything to justify that hope.

Dr. Reuven Berko has a Ph.D. in Middle East studies, is a commentator on Israeli Arabic TV programs, writes for the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom and is considered one of Israel's top experts on Arab affairs.
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Ebola on: October 15, 2014, 02:52:18 PM
205  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dealing with Evil on: October 15, 2014, 02:48:21 PM
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Qatar and Brookings Institute on: October 15, 2014, 02:22:15 PM
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Constitutional Convention? on: October 15, 2014, 02:16:37 PM
Constitutional Convention? Caveat Emptor
The Law of Unintended Consequences
By Mark Alexander • October 15, 2014   
"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory upon all." --George Washington (1796)

The "law of unintended consequences" is an idiomatic admonition regarding the manipulation of complex systems. The notion of unintentional consequence has its origin with 18th-century political economist Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment.

In the present, it is used more in rebuttal to the hubristic notion that humans are so brilliant and possess sufficient discernment about complex systems that we can predict outcomes with great accuracy. It is similar to Murphy's Law -- "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong" -- except it is not asserting the absolute.

20th-century sociologist Robert Merton noted three primary factors contributing to unanticipated consequences: First, incomplete analysis because it is impossible to anticipate all variables; second, errors in analysis of what is known about the problem; third, immediate interests overriding long-term interests.

Our nation is besieged by unintended consequences. Most notably, the 2008 election of a charismatic "community organizer" peddling a "hope and change" mantra. It is now painfully clear, after the re-election of Barack Obama, that his mantra has resulted in a plague of pessimism and an atrocious fundamental transformation of America.
But not all unanticipated consequences are bad.

Shortly after Obama's first election, a grassroots groundswell of concern over our government's abject disregard for the Constitution emerged. That concern galvanized in the Tea Party Movement, a broad coalition of Americans from all walks of life with a common goal of restoring Constitutional Rule of Law and the Essential Liberty enshrined therein.

Fortunately, this movement is more ideological than political. While the media labels some constitutional constructionists as "Tea Party candidates," the underlying movement defies traditional political party labels -- and this constitutional coalition is alive and well.

Beyond efforts to restore the plain language authority of our Constitution by way of the ballot box, several compelling arguments for constitutional amendments have emerged in an effort to circumvent restoration by way of the bullet box.

There are two proscriptions for amending our Constitution. These are specified in Article V as ratified.

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."

In other words, to amend our Constitution, two-thirds of the House and Senate must adopt an amendment or two-thirds of state legislatures (34) must request Congress convene an Article V Convention to consider an amendment. Then, that amendment must be affirmed by either three-fourths (38) of state legislatures or state conventions.

Since our Constitution was ratified and became operational on March 4, 1789, there have been approximately 11,600 amendment proposals, of which 33 were adopted by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Of those, 26 amendments were ratified by state legislatures and one, the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment (prohibition on alcohol), was ratified by state conventions.

The most significant call on Congress to convene an Article V Convention in recent history was Ronald Reagan's proposal for a Balanced Budget Amendment (as currently required by every state constitution but Vermont). On March 26, 2014, Michigan's legislature became the 22nd applying to Congress for an Article V convention seeking a Balanced Budget Amendment.

What makes the Michigan request notable is that there already are 12 applications from other states for conventions to consider a Balanced Budget Amendment. All were rescinded -- most because it was thought that the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act negated the need for a Balanced Budget Amendment. Of course, Congress created as many bypasses around Gramm-Rudman as they have around the Constitution.

But there is a debate as to whether a state may rescind its Article V application. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has called on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to seek a legal opinion on whether that threshold has been met: "With the decision by Michigan lawmakers, it is important that the House -- and those of us who support a Balanced Budget Amendment -- determine whether the necessary number of states have acted and what the appropriate role of Congress should be in this case."

Indeed, that answer is being sought by quite a few constitutional scholars who are advocates of Article V Conventions, including Lawrence Lessig, Sanford Levinson, Larry Sabato, Jonathan Turley and Mark Levin.

Levin, who distributes our Essential Liberty Guides at conservative conferences, has generated substantial interest and support for 11 amendments he outlined in his book, "The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic." He is calling for a national dialogue on these amendments, with the ultimate objective of stopping unmitigated and unlawful violations of our Constitution by the central government.


Conservative political analyst George Will is an advocate of another measure, The Compact for America, a Goldwater Institute initiative which, according to Will, "would use the Constitution’s Article V to move the nation back toward the limited government the Constitution’s Framers thought their document guaranteed."

The Compact is a renewed federal budget containment measure, and as Will concludes, "In the 85th and final of the Federalist Papers written to persuade Americans wary of centralized power to ratify the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton said: 'We may safely rely on the disposition of the state legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.' States would be the prime movers of, and would be substantially empowered by, the institute’s amendment-by-compact plan."
While we await a legal determination from Boehner on the question of whether the 34-state threshold for an Article V Convention has been met, there are two important considerations about which approach should be taken to enact amendments.

First, it is not clear whether the scope of amendments to be considered by a convention, once convened, can be limited. Could those advocating statist tyranny commandeer a convention?

Recall, if you will, that on February 21, 1787, when the Congress of the Confederation endorsed a measure to revise the Articles of Confederation, it summoned state delegates "for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation" in ways that, when approved by Congress and the states, would "render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union." Indeed, Article 13 of the Articles of Confederation set forth that it was "perpetual" until any alteration was "agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State."

But the delegates to the original Constitutional Convention determined that the Articles were not workable and proposed an entirely new Constitution, in effect discarding the Articles of Confederation without objection from the states. Fortunately, our Framers' objective was to codify Liberty as "endowed by our creator," and as specified in our Declaration of Independence.

They believed that all who followed in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, and those duly authorized thereunder, would abide by their sacred oaths to Support and Defend" our Constitution.

According to Alexander Hamilton, "[T]he present Constitution is the standard to which we are to cling. Under its banners, bona fide must we combat our political foes -- rejecting all changes but through the channel itself provides for amendments."

If that legal and moral obligation had been compliantly observed, this column would not even be necessary.

So what is the risk that such lawlessness would hijack an Article V Convention, especially since, as James Madison questioned in his notes on Article V ambiguities, "How was a Convention to be formed? By what rule decide? What the force of its acts?" None of those questions are answered in the Constitution.

Federalist Society constitutional expert Michael Stokes Paulsen, Distinguished University Chair and Professor at St. Thomas School of Law, argues that such a convention would have the "power to propose anything it sees fit."

My colleague, Heritage Foundation constitutional scholar Matt Spaulding, notes, "The largest question is whether an amendments convention can be limited to specific amendments or even topics. The pro-convention argument assumes that the power to limit the convention is inherent in the power to call the convention in the first place. I’m not so sure that follows: The text says that upon application of the states Congress 'shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments,' not for confirming a particular amendment already written, approved, and proposed by state legislatures (which would effectively turn the convention for proposing amendments into a ratifying convention). Indeed, it is not at all clear as a matter of constitutional construction (and doubtful in principle) that the power of two-thirds of the states to issue applications for a convention restricts, supersedes, or overrides the power of all the states assembled in that convention to propose amendments to the Constitution."
Thus, given the persuasive power of the Leftmedia and Democratic Party conglomerate, their ability to advance populist measures for amendment consideration could spell the end of what remains of our Constitution.

But the second consideration about which of the two approaches should be taken to enact amendments is the overarching question of whether either approach will matter in the end. For as John Adams noted, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

If the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the central government do not abide by existing constitutional constraints, why would anyone believe they would abide by additional constraints in the future?

In either case, caveat emptor.

(Note: In an upcoming column, I will reintroduce a third measure, the establishment of a Constitutional Confederation of the States, to restore constitutional integrity, which affirms the Constitution as ratified, rather than seeks to amend it further.)

Pro Deo et Constitutione -- Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CA aquifers poisoned by fracking? on: October 15, 2014, 01:55:11 PM
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Cheap oil pops the green policy bubble on: October 15, 2014, 01:53:38 PM
Cheap Oil Pops the Green Policy Bubble
Since the 1970s, Western politicians keep betting on $10 gasoline that never comes.
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
Updated Oct. 14, 2014 7:24 p.m. ET

Tesla, an electric-car company on which the political class has showered subsidies, rolled out its newest model last week, complete with high-tech safety features like lane-departure warning, blindspot monitoring, collision avoidance and self-parking. Tesla’s stock promptly dropped 8%, though probably not because these mundane features long have been available in other luxury models.

At $2.99, the price to which gasoline had fallen at some California stations last week, electric cars becoming a mass-market taste and not just an item for wealthy hobbyists recedes from probability. If Democrats especially start to find it politically no longer saleable to subsidize a toy for the rich, the company may be in real trouble.

Since World War I, the retail price of gasoline has fluctuated in a band between $2 and $4 (using 2006 dollars as a benchmark). Since the 1970s, though, politicians have repeatedly wedded themselves to policies premised on the idea that oil prices can only go up, up, up, in prelude to oil running out altogether.
A Renault Twizy electric car charging at a car-sharing station in Rome. ENLARGE
A Renault Twizy electric car charging at a car-sharing station in Rome. AFP/Getty Images

In fact, Tesla illustrates a theme from a column here back in 2008, when everyone from President George Bush to Nancy Pelosi to freshman Sen. Barack Obama was in a fever to simulate a deeper understanding of our Middle East entanglements by calling for new auto gas-mileage mandates.

These mandates, we pointed out at the time, would only divert tens of billions of auto-industry investment dollars to relatively mingy and uneconomic improvements in fuel mileage that car buyers don’t highly value. The real opportunity, meanwhile, was for revolutionary safety technologies like those Tesla is now belatedly introducing, which would necessarily be delayed by Washington’s misallocation of industry resources.

All through the 2000s this column applauded rising oil prices to ration existing supplies and stimulate new supplies to accommodate the growth of China and India. What goes up, though, must come down when investment produces a glut, when demand can’t keep pace with supply—and when major producers keep goosing production even at a falling price in order to keep producing revenues for domestic governments.

That’s what’s happening now. Saudi Arabia and Iran are slashing prices in pursuit of market share in suddenly slower-growing Asian markets. Vladimir Putin , whose budget goes red at an oil price below $110 (oil hit $84.43 Tuesday in London), is being pressed by his No. 1 crony, Igor Sechin of Rosneft, for $40 billion from the Kremlin’s welfare reserve to boost the Russian oil company’s output at a time when sanctions are cutting it off from Western capital and knowhow.

The price of fossil energy may well be depressed for a while given a strong dollar and the Western world’s governance-cum-growth failures. If so, undermined will be a lot of fantasy policies. Germany and Britain already rue their expensive commitments to renewables, which have caused local manufacturers to pull up stakes for North America and its cheap shale gas.

The Obama administration is not peopled exclusively by naïfs. An official once anonymously acknowledged that its bailout of the U.S. auto industry was certain at some point to run smack into its extreme fuel-mileage mandates (54.5 miles per gallon by 2025) that require the auto industry to invest in fuel-saving technology of little value to consumers.

We can be pretty sure, though, this non-naïf was not President Obama himself, who has acted consistently as if $10 gasoline must appear ahistorically and mystically to redeem his policies. In a major speech in 2011, he declared as a “fact” that oil prices must rise, demand must exceed supply, and America cannot depend on a “resource that will eventually run out.”

He obviously has not taken an inventory of the planet’s vast hydrocarbon stores, including methane hydrates.

What will happen next is easy to predict. Ex-GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz , seeing the world through reality glasses, has long called for a European-style gas tax to make Americans want the cars Washington is forcing GM to build.

Green energy promoter Vinod Khosla in the past lobbied a receptive Nancy Pelosi for a floating oil tax to “correct” periodic low prices, which he attributed to an oil-industry conspiracy.

Tesla’s Elon Musk will be heard again (as he was a few years ago) calling for a gas tax to turn a $2 wholesale commodity into $10 gasoline at the pump.

The ethanol industry, just now opening its first “cellulosic” ethanol plants, which require $3-plus gas to be profitable, will present its list of demands backed by the clout of corn-state senators.

Their rationale will be global warming. But U.S. cars and light trucks account for 3% of global emissions, a share rapidly vanishing to nothingness as India and China develop. The real motive will be bailing out the joint public-private (i.e., crony) investment in policies that don’t work in a world of falling gas prices.
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pandemic the Board Game on: October 15, 2014, 01:30:33 PM
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's spy chief on: October 15, 2014, 01:25:33 PM
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat on: October 15, 2014, 01:23:55 PM
Second post

Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat
Security Weekly
Thursday, October 9, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size

By Scott Stewart

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to speak at a Risk Management Society meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. During my presentation, I shared some of the points I made in last week's Security Weekly -- namely, that the jihadist movement, which includes groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda, is resilient and can recover from losses if allowed to. There is no military solution to the jihadist movement: It is an ideological problem and must be addressed on the ideological battlefield, and thus jihadists are a persistent threat.

In response to these points, an audience member asked me if I thought the United States was wasting its time and treasure in Iraq and Syria (and elsewhere) by going after jihadist groups. After answering the question in person, I decided it would make a good follow-on topic for this week's Security Weekly. 
Third-Tier Priority

First, it is important to understand that, historically, the success al Qaeda has had in executing large attacks is not due to the professionalism of its operatives and attack planners. Indeed, as I have previously noted, in addition to foiled attacks such as Operation Bojinka and the Millennium Bomb Plot, al Qaeda operatives were also nearly detected because of sloppy tradecraft and operational security mistakes in successful attacks such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole and even the 9/11 attacks.

These mistakes weren't trivial. In the 1993 World Trade Center case, one of the two operational commanders whom al Qaeda sent to New York to assist in the plot, Ahmed Ajaj, was caught entering John F. Kennedy International Airport with a Swedish passport that had its photo replaced in a terribly obvious and amateurish manner. Authorities also found a suitcase full of bombmaking manuals with Ajaj. His partner, Abdel Basit (widely known as Ramzi Yousef), called Ajaj while he was in jail looking to recover the bombmaking instructions. Before the East Africa embassy bombings, authorities had identified the al Qaeda cell responsible and detected their sloppy preoperational surveillance of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The leader of the group, Wadih el-Hage, was asked to leave Kenya, and he returned to his home in Dallas, where the group continued with its plans for attack in Africa. The perpetrators of the USS Cole bombing attempted to attack the USS The Sullivans in January 2000, but their boat was overloaded with explosives and foundered. Finally, among other mistakes the 9/11 attackers committed, Mohamed Atta had been cited for driving without a valid license and was the subject of an arrest warrant for failing to appear in court on those charges.

Al Qaeda was able to succeed in these attacks because terrorism had become a third-tier priority for the U.S. government in the 1990s, and very few resources were dedicated to fighting terrorism. Even fewer resources were dedicated specifically to the jihadist threat. Thus, significant leads were not followed in each of these cases.

The success of U.S. counterterrorism programs in the post 9/11 era cannot be attributed to the creation of the bloated and redundant bureaucracies of the Department of Homeland Security or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In fact, any achievements have come despite these organizations and the inefficiencies they have created. The real change is that terrorism is now identified as a significant threat, and countering the terrorist threat has been made the primary mission of every CIA station, FBI field office and NSA listening post on Earth. Indeed, all the tools of national counterterrorism power -- intelligence, law enforcement, foreign policy, economics and the military -- are now heavily focused on the counterterrorism mission.

Though the jihadist threat has persisted since 9/11, the intense pressure applied to jihadists by the combined force of myriad counterterrorism tools has made it difficult for the militants to project their terrorist power into the United States and Europe. These counterterrorism tools will not eradicate jihadism, but the threat jihadists pose regionally and transnationally can be contained and abated with their use. As I mentioned last week, jihadist operatives who possess advanced terrorist tradecraft are hard to replace, and arresting or killing such individuals hampers the ability of jihadist groups to project power regionally and transnationally. Ignoring the jihadist threat and allowing it to again become a third-tier issue will permit the jihadists to operate with relative impunity, as they did in the 1990s.
Ideological Change Is the Key

Another reason to maintain physical pressure on jihadist groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State is that pressure works to counter the groups' claims of divine blessing. That al Qaeda leaders claim to trust in God for protection and then hide as far underground as possible has caused many jihadists to criticize the group. Furthermore, though many jihadists treated the killing of Osama bin Laden as a joyous martyrdom, it caused other jihadists to question why the leader of al Qaeda was living in a comfortable home with his family while others were fighting on the front lines in his name.

When the Islamic State made impressive gains in Iraq and Syria in June, it boasted that it was being blessed by God, was therefore invincible and was going to continue until it conquered the world. It is quite common to hear such statements in Islamic State propaganda, including the following comments made in a video after the massacre of a group of Syrian soldiers who were taken captive after the siege of the Syrian 17th Division base near Raqqa on July 26: "We are your brothers, the soldiers of the Islamic State. God has favored us with His grace and victory by conquering the 17th Division -- a victory and favor through God. We seek refuge in God from our might and power. We seek refuge in God from our weapons and our readiness."

Such claims, when backed by dramatic battlefield successes, can have a discernible impact on many radical Muslims, who begin to wonder if the Islamic State is really becoming as inexorable as it claims to be. This illusion of divine support and invincibility has greatly assisted the group in its efforts to recruit local and foreign fighters, to raise funds and to garner support from regional allies.

Conversely, the blunting of the group's offensive on the battlefield has tempered the Islamic State's boasting. Though reports that U.S. and coalition aircraft missed key targets such as the Islamic State headquarters may reflect that the United States was a bit behind the intelligence curve, they also demonstrate that the Islamic State was abandoning the facilities, fearful of airstrikes. The sight of Islamic State fighters reacting fearfully to coalition aircraft will help slow recruitment efforts and should cause already skeptical jihadists to think twice before joining the group or swearing allegiance to it.

Doubts stemming from battlefield losses about whether God is blessing the Islamic State should also bolster efforts against the group on an ideological front. For example, on Sept. 19, a group of 126 Islamic scholars from across the globe published an open letter to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The scholars used the letter to address what they consider to be 24 points of error in the theology espoused by the Islamic State. These errors encompass a number of issues, including the nature of the caliphate; the authority to declare jihad; the practice of takfir, or proclaiming another Muslim to be a nonbeliever; the killing of innocents; the mutilation of corpses; and the taking of slaves.

The letter ends with a plea for al-Baghdadi and his followers: "Reconsider all your actions; desist from them; repent from them; cease harming others and return to the religion of mercy." It is unlikely that many of the hardcore jihadists will do as requested, but as these theological arguments are circulated and discussed, they will help undercut the ideological base of the jihadists and make it harder for them to convince impressionable people to join their cause. The effects of these theological critiques will not just be confined to the Islamic State; they will apply equally to al Qaeda and other groups that hold similar doctrines and commit similar acts.

Moreover, mainstream Muslim theologians have not been the only ones critical of the group. Jihadist ideologues such as Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada have also been critical of the Islamic State's activities and pronouncements.

Fighting the ideological war will undoubtedly be a long process. In the interim, the United States and its allies will have to continue applying pressure to groups such as the Islamic State and al Qaeda in an effort to contain them and limit the chronic threat they pose.

Read more: Responding to a Chronic Terrorist Threat | Stratfor
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213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Super Chaos? on: October 15, 2014, 01:18:09 PM

Super Chaos?
Global Affairs
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 03:02 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan

By Robert D. Kaplan

The words anarchy and chaos are everywhere in the news. Iraq has collapsed. Syria collapsed some time ago, as did Libya and Yemen -- even as Yemen now threatens to enter deeper depths of implosion with al-Houthi insurgents having entered and virtually surrounded the capital of Sanaa. Civil war in Lebanon periodically threatens to reignite. Egypt has required a rebirth of authoritarianism to keep order there. Afghanistan and Pakistan are never far from the abyss. Ukraine is a weak state threatened with further Russian military aggression. A wall of disease has been erected in West Africa in states that collapsed into anarchy in the late 1990s and have been limping along ever since. Nigeria faces an Islamic insurgency that is, in turn, indicative of regional tensions between Muslims in the north of the country and Christians in the south. South Sudan, midwifed into existence by Western elites, has been in a circumstance of tribal war. The Central African Republic, beset by religious violence that has killed thousands, can in no sense be called a functioning state. The same can be said of Somalia, though the worst of the threat posed by Islamic extremists there may be past. New shortages of rationed food items in Venezuela may mean more upheaval there. And there are other places around the globe -- called states in the polite language of diplomats and development experts -- that travelers' accounts away from the capital cities reveal are no such thing.

I worried aloud about such a world in a lengthy 1994 essay in The Atlantic Monthly, "The Coming Anarchy." The core of my argument was that with European empires gone, not every place in the world will necessarily have the capability to maintain functioning institutions in far-flung countrysides, and that absolute rises in population, ethnic and sectarian divides, and especially environmental degradation (i.e., water shortages) will only make such places harder to govern. My argument only seemed hopeless if you believed in the first place that elites could engineer reality from above. Of course elites can affect destiny at pivotal moments, but the actual character of large geographical swathes of the earth will only be determined by the masses living there.

But what if such chaos as we have seen in small- and some medium-sized states over time happens in larger states? What if, for example, the two dominant territorial forces on the Eurasian mainland, Russia and China, prove deeper into the 21st century to be ungovernable by centralized means? I am not predicting this. I personally do not think this will happen. But I believe it is a worthwhile thought experiment to conduct and entertain. For even the partial unraveling of Russia or China would have dramatic geopolitical effects far beyond their borders. Europe, after all, has throughout its history had its fate substantially determined by eruptions from the east -- in Russia. Southeast Asia, the Korean Peninsula and even the island nation of Japan have often had their fates substantially determined by changes in China. If we do not think the unthinkable, therefore, we are being irresponsible.

The fear of chaos has always been central to Russian history. Russia's landmass encompasses half the longitudes of the earth, with the result that central control must be oppressive merely to be effective. Adding to this sense of oppression is the perennial fear of invasion. Indeed, Russia is a land power with few natural borders in any direction. Oppressive, autocratic regimes have a tendency to foster weak institutions, since rule in such circumstances is personal rather than bureaucratic. Of course, the stories of Russia's impenetrable and inefficient bureaucracy are legion, but this reality has only caused its rulers -- czars and commissars both -- to be even more oppressive in their attempts to overcome it. To wit, the way in which President Vladimir Putin rules Russia is merely a culmination of how Russia has been ruled for more than a millennium. Putin rules in Politburo style, with a somewhat opaque circle of advisers who control all the major levers of power, military and civilian. Natural resource revenues, especially those of oil and natural gas, become tools of central authority in this case.

Russia is not a world of stable, impersonal and rules-based institutions but a world of rank intimidation and of whom you know. If this is the case -- if Putin has created a rule by a camarilla, which by its mere existence weakens institutional checks and balances -- what will happen to Russia after he leaves or is forced from office? Voices in the Western media wax hopeful that Putin can be toppled if he miscalculates on his military intervention in Ukraine. But were that to occur, it is more likely that Russia itself could weaken or fall into chaos, or that an even more brutal dictator would emerge to forestall such chaos. And were there to be a crisis in central authority in Moscow, expect far-flung regions such as Siberia and the Russian Far East to gain more autonomy, formally or informally. In other words, the partial breakup of Russia may be more likely than the emergence of Western democracy in Russia. The years of former President Boris Yeltsin's incompetent rule in the 1990s should be a warning of what to expect from Russian democracy.

The fear of chaos has often been prevalent throughout history in China. For thousands of years, one Chinese dynasty has followed another. But not every dynasty has been able to control all or most of Chinese territory, and between the fall of one dynasty and the rise of another there has periodically been chaos. The Chinese Communist Party is just the latest Chinese dynasty, which itself emerged following a long period of war and chaos. Now this latest dynasty faces a tumultuous economic transition from an Industrial Age, smokestack economy driven by low wages and a massive volume of exports to a postindustrial, cleaner and high-tech economy featuring higher wages and a somewhat lower volume of exports. Chinese President Xi Jinping is using an anti-corruption campaign as a sort of great purge to re-centralize the Party for these economic rigors ahead. It is highly unclear whether he can succeed. Meanwhile, democratic tendencies stir, as we have seen in Hong Kong.

If Xi only partially succeeds, let alone fails, there is the possibility of sustained ethnic unrest at increasing levels among the Muslim Turkic Uighurs in western China and the Tibetans in southwestern China. So do not necessarily expect China to be as stable over the next 30 years as it has been for the last 30.

In sum, just because autocracy has failed does not mean that democracy can work. And just because the tumultuous, dramatic weakening of central control in big states has not happened yet does not mean it is implausible.

Read more: Super Chaos? | Stratfor
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214  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / FMA article from 1900 on: October 15, 2014, 12:54:43 PM
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ebola on: October 15, 2014, 12:28:34 PM
Giving Ebola its' own thread.  Prior posts can be found on the Epidemics thread:
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 15, 2014, 12:02:52 PM
As always, "Profit or prophet-ize?"
217  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Houston's lesbian mayor subpoenas sermons on homosexuality on: October 15, 2014, 11:02:02 AM
218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: October 15, 2014, 12:03:49 AM
Ummm , , , sorry but Wesbury has been decisively kicking the collective ass of this board when it comes to predicting the market, and inflation.
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck, Moses and the Statue of Liberty on: October 14, 2014, 01:41:53 PM
second post of the day  You will need to click on the clip in question which gives one minute.  Then to get to the next minute, you click on the next clip, etc.

220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FBI's dishonest study on: October 14, 2014, 12:14:09 PM
FBI Used Bogus Numbers in Mass Shooting Report

Last month, the FBI released a study on mass shootings since 2000. We looked at the underlying cultural problems, but gun researcher John Lott dug deeper into the actual numbers the FBI used. What he found is astounding. "The FBI counted 160 'mass' or 'active' shootings in public places from 2000 to 2013," Lott wrote. "Worse, it said these attacks rose from just one in 2000 to 17 in 2013. Media outlets worldwide gave the 'news' extensive coverage. Too bad the study is remarkably shoddy -- slicing the evidence to distort the results. In fact, mass public shootings have only risen ever so slightly over the last four decades. While the FBI study discusses 'mass shootings or killings,' its graphs were filled with cases that had nothing to do with mass killings. Of the 160 cases it counted, 32 involved a gun being fired without anyone being killed. Another 35 cases involved a single murder. It’s hard to see how the FBI can count these incidents, which make up 42 percent of its 160 cases, as 'mass killings.'" In other words, it appears the FBI produced a deceptive report that just happens to bolster the gun-grabbing agenda of the Obama administration

more at
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on a rampage: Ruins of the Middle East on: October 14, 2014, 12:07:09 PM
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Reason and Faith, 1822 on: October 14, 2014, 12:03:21 PM
"Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to James Smith, 1822
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey struggles to define its regional role on: October 14, 2014, 11:10:04 AM
 Turkey Struggles to Define Its Regional Role
Geopolitical Diary
Monday, October 13, 2014 - 17:54 Text Size Print

What role will Turkey play in the international military campaign against the Islamic State? This is perhaps the biggest question regarding the U.S.-led coalition's effort against militants in Iraq and Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's claim that modern "Lawrences of Arabia" are actively trying to destabilize the Middle East offers some insight into the Turkish leadership's thoughts on this question. Nearly a century after the renowned British military intelligence officer played a key role in nurturing the 1916-18 Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, Turkey's leaders find themselves at odds with both Western and Arab states -- the latter far more than the former -- regarding the future of the region.

In an Oct. 13 speech at Istanbul's Marmara University, Erdogan said, "Lawrence was an English spy in an Arab land. But currently, the spies are springing out from our own countries in the shape of a journalist, writer or even a terrorist. You can witness the new 'Lawrences' trying to set the region on fire." Erdogan decried the "artificially made" borders drawn by European powers in the Middle East as "the real cause of long-term pain and crises" in the region. "Turkey is the only country that can provide peace in the region. Turkey is the hope of the Middle Eastern people. Turkey can remove the barriers between Middle Eastern people not by changing physical borders, but by instilling hope and trust," he added.

Embedded within these words is the strategic situation Turkey faces today, amid the ongoing turmoil in the Arab world stemming from the rise of the Islamic State. Ironically, a hundred years after Britain worked with the Arabs to undermine Turkey's power, Washington now needs Ankara to assume regional leadership and manage the security situation on its southern flank. Though Turkey is indeed seeking this elevated role, it is also well aware of the massive challenges that come with such an undertaking. This awareness is why Ankara is still struggling to come up with a coherent strategy to deal with the Islamic State.

Though the West's stance toward Turkey has undergone a 180-degree shift, the United States and Europe remain involved in efforts to manage the region south of the Turkish border. The gap between Western and Turkish interests further complicates matters for Ankara, which will have to manage jihadists, Kurdish separatists and Syria's Iranian-backed leadership for a while before it can reap any benefits from its involvement. While much has changed in the West's attitude toward Turkey's role in the Arab world, the Arabs themselves remain a major problem for Ankara.

Different Visions for the Future

Today's Arabs pose an even bigger problem for Turkey than they did when they revolted against the Ottoman Empire. Led by Saudi Arabia, the Arab states (with the exception of Qatar) no longer act as Western proxies against the Turks. On the contrary, given their financial prowess and Western concerns regarding Iran, Riyadh and its Arab allies are trying to steer the West's efforts against the Islamic State toward toppling Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

Turkey, too, is seeking al Assad's ouster, with the goal of replacing him with a new order (in Syria and the wider region) that is under Turkey's influence. For now, the Arab states simply want to undermine the Iranian and Shiite position in Iraq and Syria, and thus theirs is a sectarian struggle.

But this is not the issue with which Turkey must contend. Arabs already struggling against the Iranians also oppose the idea of their region falling, once again, under Turkey's influence, even though they share its Sunni sect. Already reeling from the chaos of the Arab Spring, the Saudis and their Arab partners do not have a blueprint for the region. However, Turkey's master plan entails working with Republican Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, to stabilize the region. This is something the Arab monarchies and republican autocracies see as the biggest threat to their stability. Turkey will therefore find itself in conflict with the Arab powers long after it has managed to sort out its issues with the West. The one power Washington is counting on to play a dominant role in managing an increasingly fragmented Middle East will have a hard time leading the region's ethnic majority for many decades to come.

Read more: Turkey Struggles to Define Its Regional Role | Stratfor
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224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rapid response capabilities on: October 14, 2014, 11:06:57 AM
 The U.S. Military Improves Its Crisis Response Capabilities
October 14, 2014 | 0422 Print Text Size
The U.S. Military Improves Its Crisis Response Capabilities
Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response soldiers load into a MV-22 Osprey during a joint training mission with the French military in 2014. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States is proceeding with the establishment of another Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response (SP-MAGTF) unit in Kuwait to support operations in the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility, which spans the Middle East and Central Asia. SP-MAGTF units were originally created as a response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. citizens. An additional unit will cover the U.S. Southern Command in the future.

Normally, U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units embarked on amphibious ships would be charged with responding to attacks like the one on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, but they are not always available or located at the right place at the right time. The 2012 attack exposed this lack of coverage and revealed the need for a pre-positioned and mobile response force that could rapidly deploy during crisis situations.

To address this gap, the U.S. Marines created flexible SP-MAGTF units that are land-based but air-deployable and able to support U.S. interests ranging from embassy reinforcement to disaster relief. The first of these units was set up in Spain and is principally geared towards supporting crisis situations in Africa. The unit, which began its deployment in 2013, has reached a full operational capability of about 1,400 Marines. It can deploy two crisis response teams with MV-22 Osprey aircraft and support them with combat aviation units.

As U.S. Marine Gen. John Paxton highlighted in an Oct. 1 discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the SP-MAGTF units are "sub-optimal" when compared to an entire Marine Expeditionary Unit, which is supported by amphibious vessels. While Marine Expeditionary Units are more capable and robust, they must commit a fixed amount of power to a specific area. These units are also limited by the speed of their ships and the range of their supporting aircraft, which constrains unit mobility and makes it difficult for a commander to prepare for an array of potential threats throughout the world. They must prioritize and commit the limited number of Marine Expeditionary Units deployed to a few specific regions, which hardly covers the full geographic spectrum of threats.

This is where the SP-MAGTF concept steps in and fills the coverage gap. The units are land-based and can be broken up and parceled out as needed. More important, they can be pre-positioned to numerous places within the command theater in response to potential threats. Elements of the U.S. Africa Command units have been temporarily stationed out of Sicily because of ongoing unrest in North Africa, predominantly in Libya. The move only requires 200 Marines to serve as a tailored response force, making the element more versatile. It is combat capable enough to protect and extract threatened U.S. personnel, and it requires much less of an overall force commitment than adjusting a Marine Expeditionary Unit to a new theater.

There are also ancillary advantages to having a ground-based Marine unit as opposed to a ship-borne one. A ground-based unit can tie in with either local forces (in military-to-military exchanges) or the community in its theater of operations, while concurrently standing by to execute its mission. Indeed, the SP-MAGTF unit covering Africa has already been utilized heavily in bilateral training with partner nations, and it evacuated U.S. personnel from South Sudan after a rise in hostilities.

The newest SP-MAGTF unit going to U.S. Central Command is the next evolution of this effort to expand coverage. Consisting of some 2,000 Marines, the unit will be headquartered in Kuwait, with various elements tasked out and positioned throughout the theater. This unit has more personnel than U.S. Africa Command's SP-MAGTF unit because U.S. Central Command covers a greater number of U.S. interests and has personnel scattered throughout a tumultuous theater. Overall, SP-MAGTF units simply repackage existing forces to better meet the needs of the Marine Corps' mission. Adaptability is an important trait for any military, and SP-MAGTF units are being created as a solution to the coverage problem highlighted by the Benghazi attack.

Read more: The U.S. Military Improves Its Crisis Response Capabilities | Stratfor
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225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Electric capacity decrease from regs 7x greater than predicted on: October 14, 2014, 10:55:22 AM
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Diseases from illegal alien minors brought in by Baraq on: October 14, 2014, 10:53:22 AM
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Growing Russia-China ties on: October 14, 2014, 10:34:19 AM

Editor's Note: Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Oct. 14, during three days of significant business negotiations and deal signing between the countries. Russia has been looking for an investment boost as a remedy for its economy, which is in sharp decline because of slowing internal growth, sanctions from the West and a sour investment climate overall. Already, Moscow's focus on expanded economic ties has shifted east, prompted by Russia's tense relations with the West in recent years. Moscow has traditionally been reserved in its relations with Asia -- and China in particular -- but this trend appears to be changing.

Russia reached out with the expansion of the East Siberia Oil Pipeline, completed in 2012, a move that increased eastbound oil exports from 4 percent to approximately 20 percent. Russia hopes to duplicate this success with natural gas exports through the Power of Siberia pipeline, which began construction this summer. The oil and natural gas deals with China are worth some $270 billion and $400 billion, respectively, over the next three decades.
Russia-China Deals Since 2012
Click to Enlarge

Beyond energy, Moscow now views China as a much larger investor in Russia as well as an alternative market for credit. Both areas are reflected in the type and quantity of deals struck between the two countries over the past three days, 38 agreements in all, worth approximately $25 billion. Among the first notable deals is an agreement with China's Exim Bank that could provide $2 billion of long-term loans to Russia's Vnesheconombank, or VEB, which is currently suffering under sanctions imposed by the West. Additionally, Beijing said it would invest $10 billion in a high-speed rail project connecting Moscow and Kazan, Tatarstan, a $25 billion project that was put on hold when Western investors shied away because of sanctions.

Moscow also offered Beijing the chance to purchase a stake in Russia's oil giant, Rosneft. This is alongside a proposed stake in planned liquefied natural gas facilities on Russia's eastern coast and a possible expansion of the Power of Siberia pipeline -- one that would add a large spur supplying China's western regions. Though indicators appear to show a revival of the Sino-Soviet alliance, both countries are carefully calculating their commitments: Beijing and Moscow are naturally wary of being beholden to one another. For the time being, however, there is a shared willingness to come to terms, which offers a distinct advantage for a Russia badly in need of new markets and investors, and a China that fits both those bills.
Russia and China Strengthen Their Energy Relationship

    June 18, 2011: Russia is one of the world's largest energy producers and China is one of the biggest consumers, but these bordering countries have done very little energy trade. Instead, Russia relies mostly on the West as a consumer — it supplies one quarter of Europe's energy — while China largely relies on energy supplies from the Middle East and Africa imported via sea routes. The reason for this disconnect is that Russia's current oil and natural gas production occurs mostly in the west of the country, while most of China's population is in its east, leaving thousands of kilometers between the source and the consumers. The distance — and therefore investment — involved in connecting Russia's energy to China's population is massive.

    Considering the difficulties involved in any oil and natural gas projects linking Russia and China, the endeavors appear to make no economic sense. However, this is not only about economics. Beijing and Moscow have many political, security and other issues in their overlapping and respective regions. It could be that energy cooperation, even at a high price, is considered mutually strategically necessary, or it could be a tradeoff for concessions in other areas. It is not clear what the tradeoff could be, but it is clear that a serious discussion is going on between the two Asian giants on finding common ground and shaping a stronger relationship in the future.

Russia Diversifies Oil Export Routes and Markets

    March 9, 2012: Russia is diversifying its customer base so that if demand in Europe declines -- or if Russia and its European customers find themselves in a politically untenable situation -- Russia will still have a large market to its east. In the past decade, Russia has increased its oil exports to Asia from 3 percent to 15 percent of total exports, with more increases expected. When the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline (ESPO) is expanded, Russia theoretically could supply one-fifth of China's imports, or one-third of Japan's imports. However, Russia is not singling out one customer in East Asia yet; it is supplying many customers. Conversely, no East Asian country wants to become too reliant on Russia after seeing Moscow cut off supplies to its customers in the West.

Russia Looks East for New Energy Consumers

    Jan. 23, 2013: With its oil and natural gas exports to Europe declining, Russia is expanding its energy export networks to Asia. Russia has long relied on Europe as its primary customer, but over the past two years Moscow has worked to build out its energy infrastructure to the east as a way of diversifying its customer base. Today, it has enough capacity to divert about half of its oil exports to eastern markets. Because oil and natural gas are the chief sources of revenue for the Russian government, the Kremlin wants to ensure it has the flexibility to shift routes and destinations as demand in different regions rises or falls, somewhat insulating the country from volatility in energy markets.

Russia Tries to Crack China's Natural Gas Market

    Sept. 11, 2013: The past two weeks have been particularly busy for Russia and China as they discuss energy deals. Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin traveled to China and struck a series of deals on behalf of Russian oil giant Rosneft, of which he is a board member. In June, the two sides agreed to a $270 billion oil deal under which Russia, starting in 2015, will export 300,000 barrels per day to China for 25 years, on top of the 400,000 barrels per day it already delivers noncontractually. In addition to this deal, Sechin and Rosneft agreed with China National Petroleum Corp. to construct a new oil refinery in the Chinese city of Tianjin and launch a joint venture to open gas stations across China that would be fed by Russian oil -- Moscow's first venture into China's gasoline market.

Russia's Competition for Natural Gas Deals with China

    Sept. 12, 2014: As China diversifies its options for natural gas suppliers, it is leveraging its position to get the best deals it can out of new contracts with Russia. Because Russia is counting on the Chinese natural gas market to help it move away from exporting energy to Europe, Moscow is offering concessions to Beijing, particularly in light of the growing competition it faces. Beijing's wariness of a natural gas contract with Russia and its concern about the end price of Russian natural gas has put Gazprom in a difficult position. The company was supposed to begin constructing the Power of Siberia pipeline in September, but without a final deal with China in place, it is postponing construction of the $32 billion pipeline until early 2014 to ensure that there will be a market for the natural gas the line will carry. Gazprom is courting other customers, such as South Korea and Japan, to sign contracts for natural gas exports via the pipeline, but the volume these countries would import is not nearly as great as the amount China has proposed.

Russia, China Agree to Natural Gas Deal

    May 21, 2014: Russia and China struck a long-awaited deal on natural gas May 21, according to Alexei Miller, the CEO of Russian natural gas giant Gazprom. According to the provisions of the deal, which is worth $400 billion, Russia will supply 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year to China for the next 30 years, with the option to raise supplies to 60 billion cubic meters per year in the future. The agreement will enable Russia to launch plans for building the $42 billion Power of Siberia pipeline, a 4,000 kilometer-long (approximately 2,500 miles) pipeline that will tap two new source fields and run from Siberia to China. The energy deal does not mean that Beijing and Moscow are aligned politically, as they were periodically during the Cold War. But each country now has a use for the other, and their partnership could help ensure domestic stability and enhance their respective positions in the world.

Read more: A Chronology of Russia's Rekindled Alliance with China | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fracking safety gets boost on: October 14, 2014, 10:27:39 AM
229  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kosher Store mobbed on: October 14, 2014, 10:22:08 AM

Kosher Store Sacked by Dozens of Hooligans in Crown Heights

A mob of teenagers in Crown Heights, New York City, vandalized a Jewish-owned business Saturday night, then damaged several nearby cars and buses before shouting “Heil Hitler” and leaving the area, witnesses said. The incident was captured on security camera. The store, Gourmet Butchers, was likely targeted because it was owned by Jews, the owner, Yanki Klein, told the local ABC News affiliate. The group, which various media sources described as consisting of 30 to 70 youths, primarily African-American, started “to scream and make noise” and then “everything happened in seconds,” Klein said. Another witness told the station that “a whole bunch of guys, they just rush the place. It was like out of nowhere, and everyone was just in like shock-mode, and everyone was shocked to see what was going on, there was no reason for it.” The same witness said that members of the group shouted “a Nazi phrase” before running away.

Watch Here

The video footage, posted to YouTube, shows a group of youths gathering outside the store, then cuts to several of them bursting through the main entrance, knocking over a shelf and throwing products around before leaving. Police were called to the scene and an investigation was launched into the incident. According to an account posted on the neighborhood news site, the store has been targeted in the past by similar acts of vandalism carried out by smaller groups or individuals, and the owner has requested more police presence in the area, but to no avail. “[Very often] these kinds of kids come by my store and yell ‘Heil Hitler,’ or steal things that are on shelves near the door… I’ve asked the police to put an officer on my corner many times, but I feel like I am being ignored and these ‘minor’ problems keep happening.” Klein said. The Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, home to a large population of both Hasidic Jews and African Americans, has in the past been a flash point of tension between the two communities.

Source: Times of Israel
230  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / R. Edelman: Ruthless Misogyny on: October 14, 2014, 10:14:59 AM
I'm not sure how well this argument succeeds (e.g. if the woman wants to be a "breeder" why should we stop her? Is the real issue here marriage, or gay parenting?) but offered in the spirit of considering various points of view:
Ruthless misogyny
LGBT activists have a range of strategies for discrediting women who question their goals.
Rivka Edelman | 13 October 2014
comment 7 | print |

Janna Darnelle’s recent essay, “Breaking the Silence: Redefining Marriage Hurts Women Like Me—and Our Children,” reveals what is behind the heartwarming pictures of gay families from a mother’s point of view. As someone who was raised by a lesbian mother, I would like to weigh in. I will comment not only as a former child who was once all smiles in those pictures, but also as an academic, a woman, a mother, and a feminist.

Darnelle’s essay struck a nerve and went viral. It is not surprising that, within a few hours, LGBT activists had taken up arms against her. Keyboard warriors manned the ramparts. Soon, the usual thugs took up their clubs and pitchforks.

For those of you who avoid the subterranean landscape of online same-sex parenting debates, it is useful to be introduced to Scott “Rose” Rosenzweig, a virulently misogynistic LGBT activist. As soon as Darnelle’s essay was published, Rose went into action, darting from the blog Good As You to other sites in an effort to destroy her personally. (Rose’s obsessive internet commenting has attracted attention at other news outlets as well.) Darnelle’s ex-husband even weighed in. A helpful fellow, he left her personal information in the comments section of several activists’ blogs, including her full legal name.

Janna Darnelle wrote under a pen name in order to protect her family. Unfortunately, her ex-husband’s comments helped Scott Rose embark on a campaign of harassment and intimidation. As I will discuss below, Rose was not content to confine his character assassination to the internet; he has also contacted Darnelle’s employer in an attempt to get her fired.

Readers will recall that Darnelle’s essay discusses her divorce from her ex-husband and her struggles as a single mother to provide a sense of family. Although her conclusions are controversial, her story is well-written and articulate. Sadly, the hate-driven response from extremist LGBT activists and bloggers confirms what many women are beginning to realize. While these activists laud the ex-husband for “living his truth,” they hold women and children in such contempt that they refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Janna’s account of her difficult experiences as a mother. Although they purport to represent the disadvantaged, certain wings of the LGBT-rights movement function as all-white men’s rights groups. In our contemporary climate, these men are allowed to do great harm to women and children with impunity.

Erasing and Exploiting Women

On the most superficial level, what Darnelle described could have parallels in a heterosexual divorce. In most cases, a woman’s standard of living drops significantly after a divorce, while men’s goes up significantly. So, in that sense, there was nothing surprising in Janna’s story: the judge favored the husband, who had a steady high income.

The bloggers and activists who comment at Jeremy Hooper’s Good as You blog have used this judge’s decision to suggest that Darnelle was an unfit mother. Darnelle’s piece did not give details about the family’s custody arrangement, but I have confirmed that the mother has 60 percent custody of the children. This indicates that she has not been found to be “unfit” in any way.

The “unfit mother” trope is very important, because it helps justify taking women’s children, eggs, or the use of their uteri. Darnelle is right. Many families headed by gay male couples are built upon exploitation of women. Practically speaking, Scott Rose and his compatriots have formed a men’s rights group that seeks to use women as breeders. These egg donors and surrogate mothers supply infants for a bustling market full of same-sex couples, for whom reproduction is naturally and biologically impossible.

In the name of equality, groups such as GLAAD (which employs Jeremy Hooper as a consultant) have pushed through gender identity laws that have legally erased women. The term “woman” now legally can refer to the way that a man chooses to identify himself. Once women have been erased legally as a group and as individuals, it is not hard to erase “mothers.” This lends support to the practice of using one woman’s eggs and another woman’s womb to supply children for gay male couples, obscuring the concept of motherhood and making it seem dispensable.

A Guide to the Playbook of Extreme LGBT Activists

The publication of Janna Darnelle’s story led to a spate of blog posts full of vitriol, calling her “a pitiful creature,” accusing her of mental instability, and questioning her very existence.

With the help of her husband’s comments, Scott Rose set off to dig up and publicize as much personal information as possible about Darnelle, such as high school graduation and real estate records. Rose has harassed Darnelle with threatening messages. He has even contacted Darnelle’s employer, leaving this message on the company’s Facebook page:

    This is a COMPLAINT against […], an executive assistant in […]. Under the nom de plume of “Janna Darnelle,” […] has published a horrifying, defamatory anti-gay screed on the website “Public Discourse.” The first problem would be that she is creating a climate of hostility for eventual gay elders and/or their visiting friends and relatives. The second problem would be that in the screed, she comes off as being unhinged. Her public expressions of gay-bashing bigotry are reflecting very poorly on LLC.

Sadly, all of this conforms to a predictable pattern of attack. If you study the routine that plays out whenever extreme activists like Scott Rose decide to take someone out, you will see seasoned patterns. Four steps comprise their usual character assassination.

First, they call the individual a liar and say the person’s existence cannot be verified without more data about him or her. Second, once they have such data, they write to the person’s employer to get him or her fired or professionally destroyed. Third, if they cannot get the person fired, they go after the family members. Fourth, if they cannot turn the person’s family against him or her, they blast endless broadsides against the person, trying to make him or her feel afraid or unsafe at all times.

They have a bag of rhetorical tricks as well. Learn these.

Soft derails: “What about straight divorces, adoptions, and blended families?” Such asides are meant to distract and create false equivalencies. The fact is, every single family headed by a gay male couple had to take another person’s child. In order to accept this, one must accept that men have the right to use women’s bodies and buy their children.

Shocking derails: “Look at all the bad parents that are heterosexual.” The existence of such parents, while tragic, does not give men the right to harvest eggs from women, to use them as breeders, or to take their babies and children.

Appeal to emotion: “We want children; what should we do?” This tries to make people feel guilty or shame them into handing over poor women to be used by rich men. My response: I have not asked you to solve my problems, have I? You can’t demand society legislate a special subclass of women to beused explicitly as breeders so you can feel happy.

Born this way biology: “Do not live a lie; be true to yourself.” This tactic becomes another erasure of women. In this scheme, we are asked to accept that men’s biology matters. A man who is attracted to other men could not possibly be asked to stay with his wife, because he is biologically fated to be attracted to other men’s bodies. Yet, simultaneously, we are told that women’s biology—especially their biological bonds with their children—are of no importance. Despite the scientific evidence of maternal and fetal bonding during pregnancy, and despite the long histories of women who have suffered lifelong grief because their babies were taken from them, we are expected to think of women as breed animals and to believe that men have the right to raise other people’s children.

You want to marry a man and you are a man? Society does not owe you women’s children, women’s eggs, or women’s bodies.

They Can’t Silence Us Forever

In writing this piece, I know that I risk being labeled a bigot. Like Janna Darnelle, I will probably have to endure a whole host of misogynistic terms. I’ll be called crazy, unhinged, laughable, bitter, fat, old, and ugly. In other words, I am just a woman who dares to say rich privileged white men do not have the right to women’s bodies and body parts.

Male sexual pleasure has been a protected industry for both gay and heterosexual men for ages. By and large, the industry exploits women and children. Now we have a new industry: surrogacy, or the commercial-industrial uterus. How very progressive. And at the same time, how very old and predictable.

Rivka Edelman is a visiting professor of literature and writing. She has published widely under a different name. She is also a feminist, a children’s rights activist, and an active member in the network of adult children raised in LBGT households. This essay was originally published at Public Discourse and has been republished with permission.
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231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey bombs Kurdish rebels on: October 14, 2014, 10:09:16 AM*Mideast%20Brief&utm_campaign=2014_The%20Middle%20East%20Daily_10.14.14
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beck & Feiler's on Moses's connection with our Founding Fathers on: October 14, 2014, 12:56:39 AM
See especially the part with Beck and Feiler discussing Moses and our Founding Fathers:
233  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Feiler: Moses on: October 14, 2014, 12:44:05 AM
Moses is America's prophet
By Bruce Feiler, Special to CNN
March 29, 2010 1:28 p.m. EDT

    Bruce Feiler calls this week, from Passover to Easter, Moses week in America.
    Feiler says U.S. and its leaders have referred to narrative of Moses for over 400 years
    Pilgrims, Jefferson, Statue of Liberty, spirituals, Superman refer to Moses, he says
    Moses represents courage, balance of freedom and law, ideal of justice, he says

Editor's note: Bruce Feiler is the author of "Walking the Bible," "Abraham" and "America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story." His new book, "The Council of Dads," will be published in April.
(CNN) -- This Saturday, millions of Americans will watch the annual spectacle of Charlton Heston acting the part of a Cold War hero in Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments." The TV air date is no accident.

This week, beginning with Passover and ending with Easter, is "Moses week" in America. It's the one time of year when the biblical hero steps to the forefront of religious ritual, renewing the special bond that has existed between the great prophet and the United States for over 400 years.

Moses was an American icon long before there was an America. When the Pilgrims left England in 1620, they described themselves as the chosen people fleeing their pharaoh, King James. On the Atlantic, they proclaimed their journey to be as vital as "Moses and the Israelites when they went out of Egypt." And when they got to Cape Cod, they thanked God for letting them pass through their fiery Red Sea.

By the time of the Revolution, Moses had become the go-to narrative of American freedom. In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly chose a quote from the Five Books of Moses for its State House bell, "Proclaim Liberty thro' all the Land to all the Inhabitants Thereof -- Levit. XXV 10."

The future Liberty Bell was hanging above the room where the Continental Congress passed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Congress' last order of business that day was to form a committee of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams to design a seal for the new United States. The committee submitted its recommendation that August: Moses, leading the Israelites across the Red Sea. In their eyes, Moses was America's true Founding Father.
Two-thirds of the eulogies at George Washington's death compared him to Moses.
--Bruce Feiler

But escaping bondage proved to be only half the story. After the Israelites arrived in the desert, they faced a period of lawlessness, which prompted the Ten Commandments. The message: Freedom depends on law.

Americans faced a similar moment of chaos after the Revolution. Just as a reluctant Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and then handed down the Ten Commandments, a reluctant George Washington led the colonists to victory and then presided over the drafting of the Constitution. The parallel was not lost. Two-thirds of the eulogies at Washington's death compared him to Moses.

Although Moses was a unifying presence during the founding era, a generation later, he got dragged into the issue that most divided the country. The Israelites' escape from slavery was the dominant motif of slave spirituals, including "Turn Back Pharaoh's Army," "I Am Bound for the Promised Land" and the most famous, "Go Down, Moses," which was called the national anthem of slaves.

Yet as abolitionists used the exodus to attack slavery, Southerners used it to defend the institution. The War Between the States became the War Between the Moseses. It took America's most Bible-quoting president to reunite the country. Abraham Lincoln talked about the exodus at Gettysburg, and, when he died, he too was compared to Moses.

"There is no historic figure more noble than that of the Jewish lawgiver," Henry Ward Beecher eulogized. "There is scarcely another event in history more touching than his death." Until now. "Again a great leader of the people has passed through toil, sorrow, battle and war, and come near to the promised land of peace, into which he might not pass over."
The country's greatest icon, the Statue of Liberty ... even Superman [were] modeled partly on Moses.
--Bruce Feiler

Political figures weren't the only ones compared to Moses; national icons were, as well, including Uncle Sam and Old Glory. The country's greatest icon, the Statue of Liberty, was designed with spikes of light around her head and a tablet in her arms to mimic Moses' pose when he climbed down Sinai with shafts of light around his head and tablets of law in his hands.

Even Superman was modeled partly on Moses. The comic-book hero's creators, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, modeled their superhero on the superhero of the Torah. Just as baby Moses is floated down the Nile in a basket to escape annihilation, baby Superman is launched into space in a rocket ship to avoid extinction. Both Moses and Superman were picked up by aliens and raised in strange environments before being summoned to aid humanity. Superman's birth name was Kal-el, which is Hebrew for "swift god."

But it was Cecil B. DeMille who turned Moses into a symbol of American power in the Cold War. The 1956 epic "The Ten Commandments," the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time, opened with DeMille appearing onscreen.

"The theme of this picture is whether men ought to be ruled by God's law or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator," he said. "The same battle continues throughout the world today."

To drive home his point, DeMille cast mostly Americans as Israelites and Europeans as Egyptians. And in the film's final shot, Charlton Heston quotes the Liberty Bell (even though it comes from three books earlier in the Bible) and recreates the pose of the Statue of Liberty, forever securing America's place as the new Promised Land.

Today, 40 years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. compared himself to Moses on the night before his assassination, the Hebrew prophet is as resonant as ever.

George W. Bush said in an Oval Office interview that he was inspired to run for the presidency by a sermon in Texas in which his preacher said Moses was not a man of words but still led his people to freedom. Barack Obama said in 2007 that the civil rights pioneers were the "Moses generation," and he was part of the "Joshua generation" that would "find our way across the river." And this week, Obama holds the second White House seder.

What explains this ongoing appeal?

First, Moses embodies the courage to escape hardship and seek a better world. He keeps alive the ministry of hope. "Not America," as W.E.B. DuBois put it, "but what America will be." Moses is the figurehead of "America will be."

Second, Moses encapsulates the American juggling act between freedom and law. "Since the exodus," German poet Heinrich Heine said, "freedom has always spoken with a Hebrew accent."

Finally, Moses is a reminder that a moral society is one that embraces the outsider and uplifts the downtrodden. "You shall not oppress a stranger," God says in Exodus 23, "for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt." Moses represents the ideals of American justice.

Yet he reminds us that we often fall short of our dreams. As King said, "I've been to the mountaintop. And I've looked over. I've seen the promised land. And I may not get there with you, but I want you to know that we as a people will get to the promised land."

These words capture what may be the most enduring lesson of Moses: The true destination of a journey of hope is not this year at all but next.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Bruce Feiler.
234  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / SW Browne: Heroes on: October 13, 2014, 09:33:25 PM
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Buy! on: October 13, 2014, 01:42:47 PM
Monday Morning Outlook
Timing The Market Doesn't Work To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 10/13/2014

The stock market doesn’t owe anything to anyone. If you missed the bottom in 2009, no one owes you another chance to get in when stocks are that cheap. We may never see such historic lows again.
And even if markets did give us another chance, most investors would probably miss it all over again because they would be in such a panic – just like in 2009. Breathless, breaking-news would provide so much instantaneous, and conflicting, analysis of technical indicators, like “support levels,” “trading-volume,” “200-day moving averages,” and “new highs and lows” that investors wouldn’t be able to act with any confidence.
Fundamental analysts would talk of a “downward spiral in the wealth effect,” “a new normal,” “peak earnings,” “political gridlock,” or, “Fed inaction.” With this back-drop investors would expect even more declines.
But, even after the events of recent weeks, an investor that bought the S&P 500 on December 1, 2007, and held, would have made 6% per year (including dividends) through today. More recently, even after another 1.5% drop last Friday, the S&P 500 was 12.6% above its level of a year ago (14.9%, with dividends). How many people think of 2007, or last October, as a buying opportunity?
Believe it or not, we would argue that today is what a buying opportunity looks like. When stocks were rising just a few months ago, lots of investors were upset they hadn’t gone “long” in 2013. Now, with markets falling, and equity prices hovering near those same levels, they hesitate to buy.
Think about all the reasons for the market drop. One fear is a slowdown in Europe. But Europe has been a very sickly plow horse for several years, so much so that many serious economists were proposing a break-up of the Euro.
We’re not forecasting an economic boom in Europe, but with money easy, a collapse is not in the cards either. More like a slow motion continuation of very weak real growth as Euro-sclerosis continues.
Another fear is a slowdown in China. But goods exports to China are only 0.7% of US GDP, about half of what we export to Mexico, and if China gets in trouble our imports from China will cost less. When China is importing much more from the US, a slowdown there will be more significant. But for now, the concern is overdone.
Yet another fear is that “Abe-nomics” isn’t working in Japan. For the record, it won’t work. Free-markets, not government, save economies. Japan has been in decline for the past two decades, but the US has still grown. In other words, it’s nothing new.
The strangest fear is that a strong US dollar will hurt the market. But a strong dollar in the 1980s and 1990s coincided with a bull market, not a bust. King Dollar is good for investors.
We are not saying equities will go up today, or tomorrow, or even this week. Heck, for all we know the long-awaited correction may finally be upon us.

But, the Fed is not tight, trade protectionism is not in the wind, tax rates are not headed higher, and big government is checked by divided government. Profits are still rising, the US economy is accelerating, and our models show that equities are still cheap. It may not be the “mother of all buying opportunities,” but it ain’t the end of equities, either.
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kurds getting fuct on: October 13, 2014, 11:38:30 AM

Leaving a U.S. Ally Outgunned by ISIS
A Kurdish official has written to Defense Secretary Hagel pleading for the U.S. to honor its promises of military aid.
By David Tafuri
Oct. 12, 2014 5:54 p.m. ET

In President Obama ’s Sept. 11 speech about combating Islamic State jihadists, he said that America “will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.” But the president said that U.S. military advisers “are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.”

If this is the plan, little in terms of weaponry or training has reached Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq—and they are begging Washington to make good on its promises.

In the meantime, in the front-line town Khazar, between Islamic State-held Mosul and the Kurdish capital, Erbil, Peshmerga forces drive unarmored pickup trucks and carry AK-47s as they face off against Islamic State, aka ISIS, fighters armed with U.S.-made tanks, armored Humvees and heavy artillery. The imbalance is replicated across the entire border of almost 650 miles that Kurds share with ISIS in Iraq.

In three trips to the Kurdistan Region since ISIS invaded Iraq in early June, I have seen the situation improve as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes, but little has changed in terms of the supply of equipment and training for our Kurdish allies.

The coalition that supports the airstrikes should take immediate action to provide the Peshmerga with the offensive and defensive equipment they need to match the firepower of ISIS. Failing to do so increases the likelihood—despite President Obama’s vows not to involve U.S. forces—that America and other coalition countries, which include France, Australia and the U.K., will have to send in troops to defeat ISIS.

In a letter sent on Oct. 2 to U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that until now has not been made public, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Sayid Qadir pleaded for help, saying that his forces still carry “outdated AK-47s, Soviet Dragunov rifles and other light arms.”

The letter, which I was given access to by the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, tabulated the surprisingly small amount of equipment received from international allies. In addition to AK-47s, the U.S. has provided fewer than 100 mortars and just a few hundred rocket-propelled grenades, or RPGs. The Peshmerga haven’t received a single tank or armored vehicle from coalition countries. The problem is compounded by the fact that Iraqi security forces denied the Peshmerga access to the thousands of tanks and armored vehicles the U.S. left behind for Iraq when the military pulled out in 2011. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters have commandeered U.S.-provided tanks and Humvees abandoned by Iraqi forces fleeing from battle.

The U.S. effort to arm and train Peshmerga forces is hindered by at least three factors. First, U.S. diplomats continue to follow the so-called One Iraq Policy, which considers giving direct assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government—whether military or nonmilitary—a potential blow to Iraqi national unity. Whatever U.S. interest this policy may have served in the years before ISIS emerged, it now endangers our closest ally in Iraq and puts Peshmerga forces at a significant disadvantage in their fight against ISIS.

Second, the U.S. continues to abide by the Iraqi government’s insistence that all shipments to the Kurds stop first in Baghdad, where Iraqi officials can delay or even block the shipments from ever reaching the Kurdisstan Region.

Third, State Department regulations prevent the Kurdistan Regional Government from purchasing American-made weapons and equipment without “end-user certificates” issued by Baghdad—certificates that the Iraqi government makes extremely difficult to obtain.

The Kurdistan Regional Government estimates it has more than 150,000 soldiers in the Peshmerga forces—about five times more than the highest estimates of ISIS fighters. The Peshmerga are committed to fighting ISIS and can be the “boots on the ground” that the U.S.-led coalition wants to avoid having to deploy. Yet they are struggling against ISIS because they lack even basic tactical equipment used by modern armies. Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Hazhar Ismail recently told me that less than 5% of the Peshmerga fighters even have helmets.

The U.S. can change this situation by: (1) supplying the Kurds with heavier weapons and needed defensive equipment, in particular armored Humvees, tanks and anti-armor rockets; (2) refusing to let Baghdad delay or block such shipments; (3) changing State Department regulations to permit issuance of end-user certificates by the Kurdistan Regional Government; and, (4) transferring to the Kurds some excess U.S. military equipment (including armored vehicles) stored on U.S. bases in the region.

In his Sept. 16 testimony to Congress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey suggested that American ground troops may eventually be needed to fight ISIS. His message was met with criticism by those who oppose sending U.S. troops into combat in Iraq again. To reduce the chances of Washington having to confront that choice, the U.S. should make good on its promises and ensure that the Peshmerga are no longer outgunned by ISIS.

Mr. Tafuri, the U.S. State Department’s rule of law coordinator in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, is a partner at the Washington, D.C.-based law firm Squire Patton Boggs. He serves as legal counsel to the Kurdistan Regional Government.
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obama plotting to close Guantanamo on: October 13, 2014, 11:35:30 AM
Obama Weighs Options to Close Guantanamo
Any Move to Override Congressional Ban on Bringing Detainees to U.S. Would Spark Fight
By Carol E. Lee and Jess Bravin
Oct. 9, 2014 8:02 p.m. ET

The U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, currently has 149 inmates detained in connection with the U.S. war on terrorism. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The White House is drafting options that would allow President Barack Obama to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by overriding a congressional ban on bringing detainees to the U.S., senior administration officials said.

Such a move would be the latest and potentially most dramatic use of executive power by the president in his second term. It would likely provoke a sharp reaction from lawmakers, who have repeatedly barred the transfer of detainees to the U.S.

The discussions underscore the president’s determination to follow through on an early campaign promise before he leaves the White House, officials said, despite the formidable domestic and international obstacles in the way.

Administration officials say Mr. Obama strongly prefers a legislative solution over going around Congress. At the same time, a senior administration official said Mr. Obama is “unwavering in his commitment” to closing the prison—which currently has 149 inmates detained in connection with the nation’s post-9/11 war on terrorism—and wants to have all potential options available on an issue he sees as part of his legacy.

The White House has sought to make executive actions a centerpiece of its policy agenda, in areas including the minimum wage, antidiscrimination rules and, potentially, immigration. House Republicans, in response, are seeking to sue Mr. Obama, saying he overstepped his legal authority in bypassing Congress.

Unilateral action “would ignite a political firestorm, even if it’s the best resolution for the Guantanamo problem,” said American University law professor Stephen Vladeck. Republicans are sure to oppose it, while Democrats could be split, he said.

White House officials have concluded Mr. Obama likely has two options for closing Guantanamo, should Congress extend the restrictions, which it could do after the midterm elections.

He could veto the annual bill setting military policy, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, in which the ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. is written. While the veto wouldn’t directly affect military funding, such a high-stakes confrontation with Congress carries significant political risks.

A second option would be for Mr. Obama to sign the bill while declaring restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo prisoners an infringement of his powers as commander in chief, as he has done previously. Presidents of both parties have used such signing statements to clarify their understanding of legislative measures or put Congress on notice that they wouldn’t comply with provisions they consider infringements of executive power.

The core obstacle standing in the White House’s way is Congress’s move in 2010 to ban the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. That legislation was passed after the administration sparked a backlash when it proposed relocating detainees to a maximum-security prison in Thomson, Ill.

The administration hopes to tamp down controversy by reducing the inmate population by at least half through quickly transferring Guantanamo detainees cleared for release.

On Thursday, Estonia, which Mr. Obama visited last month, announced it would accept one detainee. Officials said additional transfers are in the works.

“We are very pleased with the support from our friends and allies, and we are very grateful to them,” said Clifford Sloan, the State Department envoy for Guantanamo closure.

Nonetheless, administration officials say the detention center can’t be closed without sending at least some of the remaining inmates to the U.S. mainland.

Mr. Obama said in his 2014 State of the Union address that “this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.” The president now expects to miss that deadline, administration officials say, a departure from earlier this summer when White House aides were still saying it was possible.

Mr. Obama’s decision in May to exchange Guantanamo detainees for an American prisoner of war, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, without the required 30-day advance congressional notice drew a backlash on the Hill. The start of a U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State militant group has similarly overshadowed any appetite for a repeal of the ban.

A Gallup poll released in June said 29% of Americans support closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and transferring detainees to U.S. prisons, while 66% oppose the idea.

Most of the nearly 800 men held at Guantanamo since it opened in 2002 were released during the George W. Bush administration. Of the 149 who remain, 79 have been approved for transfer by national-security officials but remain because of political or diplomatic obstacles in repatriating them.

Another 37 have been designated for continued detention without trial. These are men considered too dangerous to release, yet against whom the government lacks usable evidence. A further 23 have been referred for prosecution by military commission, where 10 detainees, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, are in pretrial hearings.

Officials, who declined to say where detainees might be housed if taken to the mainland, said the U.S. has ample space in its prisons for several dozen high-security prisoners. The administration has reviewed several facilities that could house the remaining detainees, with the military brig at Charleston, S.C., considered the most likely.

Since winning re-election, Mr. Obama has made several moves designed to speed the prison’s closure. He named envoys at the State and Defense Departments to help secure the transfer of detainees to foreign countries. He lifted the administration’s moratorium on sending detainees to Yemen, which counts 58 nationals among those cleared for transfer.

Part of the administration’s strategy for reducing political opposition to lifting the ban on transferring detainees is to whittle the number in Guantanamo to the point where the cost of maintaining the installation is unpalatable. The annual cost per inmate is $2.7 million, in contrast with $78,000 at a supermax prison on the mainland, officials say.

“As the number becomes smaller at Guantanamo, the case for domestic transfers…becomes that much stronger,” a senior administration official said.

Prisoner transfers to foreign countries have slowed this year. A transfer of six Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Uruguay is tied up in that country’s Oct. 26 presidential elections. The current president has agreed to accept the detainees, while his opponent has said he wouldn’t.

Before the swap that led to Sgt. Bergdahl’s release, the administration completed the transfer of 12 detainees, a senior administration official said. No detainees have been transferred since.

The U.S. requires countries to meet certain criteria before allowing them to accept detainees. Countries, for instance, must provide the U.S. with assurances that the detainees won’t return to the battlefield and will be treated humanely. Many of the countries willing to take detainees are European, including France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Latvia and Slovakia. But there are a growing number in South and Latin America.
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, AIDs, Superbugs, Ebola, etc on: October 13, 2014, 11:29:17 AM
Feds Underestimating How Easy It Is to Get Ebola

A nurse from one of the best health care systems in the world has contracted Ebola. The nurse cared for Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who traveled to Dallas from Liberia with the disease, and checked herself into her hospital's emergency room Oct. 12. This story challenges the Obama administration's narrative. In a September video message, Barack Obama told the people of Liberia it was safe enough to sit on the bus next to a person infected with the disease and still not contract Ebola. Cue the CDC, which issued a travel warning for the country, telling travelers to "avoid unnecessary travel." Now, doctors are saying it may be easier to contract the disease than previously assumed. Dr. Dennis Maki, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said, "Some of the garb the health worker takes off might brush against a surface and contaminate it. New data suggest that even tiny droplets of a patient's body fluids can contain the virus." The 3,000 American soldiers fighting Ebola in Liberia are in greater danger than Obama lets on.
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist #1, 1787 on: October 13, 2014, 11:27:56 AM
"In politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 1, 1787
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 40 years of safe fracking in CA on: October 13, 2014, 09:34:04 AM 
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1823: Judiciary is the most dangerous of the branches. on: October 12, 2014, 04:04:26 PM
"At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous... In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, 1823
242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Canada hit by virus too on: October 12, 2014, 04:00:50 PM
second post

Guest Column: Terror's Virus on the Northern Border
by David B. Harris
Special to IPT News
October 7, 2014
Ever since full-blown cases of the disease hit the United States, Canadians have dreaded the contagion's arrival north of the 49th parallel.

Its effects: blindness and a deadly incapacity to recognize and adapt to reality.

The malady? The White House's refusal to identify the leading terrorist enemy by name and combatant doctrine.

President Obama began his administration by avoiding counterterror language likely to link Islam with violence. This reflected a civilized and practical impulse to avoid alienating Muslims at home and abroad.

But perhaps influenced by the demonstrable fact that President Obama, as former terror prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy put it, "made Islamic supremacists key administration advisors," this effort quickly got out of control. Now the White House fetishizes and enforces on its security agencies, a refusal to identify the doctrine underlying the bulk of the world's terrorism woes: radical Islamism.

Remarkable, considering that Muslims sounded the alarm years ago.

"Obviously not all Muslims are terrorists but, regrettably, the majority of the terrorists in the world are Muslims," wrote Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed in a 2004 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat article flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).

Despite this, the Obama White House banned words like "Islamists," "Muslims" and "jihad" from security documents, even from FBI and other government agencies' counterterror training manuals.

Lawyer and retired US military intelligence officer Major Stephen C. Coughlin exposed the censorship's extent at a February 2010 conference. In 2004, he noted, the 9/11 Commission Report made 126 mentions of "jihad," 145 of "Muslim," and used the word "Islam" over 300 times. No surprise.

But Washington later purged such terms completely from the FBI counterterrorism lexicon (2008), National Intelligence Strategy (2009) and even the 2010 panel reviewing jihadi Nidal Malik Hasan's 2009 Fort Hood massacre – except as unavoidable parts of names of terror organizations or the like. The practice seems to continue.


Understanding the threat – extremist Muslims, in this case – requires understanding their doctrine. If terrorists were invoking Christianity – it has happened – security and intelligence organizations would focus on problematic churches and related facilities connected to radical preaching, funding and recruitment. Christian holy literature would be scrutinized, in order to anticipate terrorists' plans, targets and attack-dates. Redouble the guard on Christmas or Easter? Could atheists, Muslims or Jews be targets? Regardless whether extremists' interpretations should, in any objective sense, be true or false representations of the ideology in question, serious intelligence must look at these things in order to understand and master the threats posed by all extremist strains of religion or other ideologies. Politicians and the public must discuss them. Public education, transparency, democracy and our defense, demand this. Anything else is misleading, self-deceiving and likely self-defeating.

Northern Exposure

So it was that, three years ago, the Canadian government published the first of its annual series of public threat reports. This straight-talking assessment pinpointed "Sunni Islamist extremism" as a primary menace to Canadians.

But, tragically, the D.C. disease had overtaken Canada's security bureaucracy by the time August brought the 2014 Public Report On The Terrorist Threat to Canada. This report expunges all direct references to Islamists, other than in terror-organization names.

Take, for example, the latest report's warning about Canadians joining terror outfits abroad. Gone are terms like "Islamist extremists" and even "violent jihad." The report's authors – apparently burdened by "advice" from misguided outreach to Canadian Islamists – slavishly substituted generic terms like "extremist travellers" for language revealing the religious claims, affiliations, motivations and doctrines of our enemies. "Extremist travellers" appears dozens of times to the exclusion of meaningful nomenclature – an editing embarrassment, on top of a national-security one. From the 2014 report:

Europol estimates that between 1,200 and 2,000 European extremist travellers took part in the conflict in Syria in 2013. There appears to be an increase in extremist travellers. This suggests that the threat posed to Europe by returning extremist travellers may be more significant than the threat facing North America because greater numbers of extremist travellers are leaving, then returning to Europe, than are leaving and later returning to North America. This difference between Canada and Europe in numbers of extremist travellers can be attributed to a variety of factors. Regardless, Europe and Canada face a common, interconnected threat from extremist travellers. [Emphasis added.]

In just one paragraph, Canada's self-censoring report says that many Europeans are "fighting abroad as extremist travellers"; "they attract extremist travellers … and continue to draw European extremist travellers"; there were "European extremist travellers in Syria and other conflict zones"; the "influx of these extremist travellers into Syria" increases the European terror risk; "an extremist traveller who returned from Syria" allegedly slaughtered several Belgians. (Emphasis added.)

This doubletalk undermines public awareness, public confidence in authorities and the ability of officials and citizens alike to recognize, assess and confront terrorist and subversive enemies and their doctrine.

We saw the absurd far reaches of this self-blinding mentality a few years ago when Canadian police officers at a terrorism news conference thanked "the community" for facilitating an Islamist terrorist take-down. When a journalist asked which community they meant, the officers – not daring to say "Muslim" – all but froze, thawing only enough to become caricatures of stymied stumbling. Because paralyzing PC protocols banned the M-word, the conference ended without the officers having been able explicitly to thank the deserving "Muslim community."

How has Canada come to this?

Among other sources, Canadian security officials get advice from their federal government's Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security. Prominent member Hussein Hamdani reportedly campaigned to drop language implicating things "Islamic." Meanwhile, Hamdani, the subject of a just-released report by Canada's Point de Bascule counter extremist research organization, remains vice-chair of the North American Spiritual Revival (NASR) organization. On its website, NASR boasts – as it has done for years – of sponsoring an appearance in Canada by U.S. Imam Siraj Wahhaj, frequently tagged a radical and a 1993 World Trade Center bombing unindicted co-conspirator. Fellow American Muslim Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, once said of Wahhaj: "He's the No. 1 advocate of radical Islamic ideology among African-Americans. His stuff is very appealing to young Muslims who are on a radical path."

Hamdani's NASR also brought American Imam Ziad Shakir to Canada. His disturbing ideology, as I've written elsewhere, "was condemned by moderate American Muslim leader and retired U.S. naval Lt. Cmdr Zuhdi Jasser, and by the American Anti-Defamation League." Some have other concerns about Hamdani.

Now comes word that Hamdani, squired by Angus Smith, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) analyst sometimes linked to the censorship policy, will appear on a Montgomery County, Md. panel tomorrow to enlighten Americans about radicalism and the ISIS terror threat.


This isn't the least of it. Days before the scheduled visit, it was discovered that RCMP outreachers inconceivably had collaborated for months with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) in producing "United Against Terrorism," an erstwhile counter-radicalization handbook. Inconceivably, because NCCM is the renamed Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), the Canadian chapter of CAIR, a Saudi-funded U.S. unindicted co-conspirator group. (In its July 2013 name-change announcement, NCCM admitted, with respect to CAIR-CAN, that "We remain the same organization," leading to suspicions that the adjustment was a cosmetic attempt to kick over documented CAIR-CAN traces to radicalism.)

As for CAIR-CAN/NCCM's U.S. mother organization: "The [US] Government has produced ample evidence," concluded the relevant U.S. district court's decision, "to establish the associations of CAIR, ISNA and NAIT …with Hamas."

In addition, several senior CAIR staffers and affiliated persons – including CAIR's former national civil liberties coordinator – have done pen-time for terrorism-related offenses. But the Canadian chapter has yet to condemn publicly and by name the U.S. organization and these convicts, or reveal fully the nature of past or present financial and other dealings with CAIR.

The Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA), led by Shahina Siddiqui, joins the NCCM and RCMP in authorship on the handbook's cover. Canada's outreach counter-radicalization world seems to be a small, if not inbred, one, for Siddiqui happens also to be a member of both the NCCM's board, and the RCMP's national and Manitoba "diversity" committees.

Another curiosity of authorship involves the only named RCMP official identified in the book's "Consultants & Contributors" section: "TASLEEM BUDHWANI, PHD, C.PSYCH, Federal Policing Strategy, RCMP." A profile has this psychologist busy "enhancing partnerships between law enforcement and various sectors including NGOs … in the prevention of individual radicalization to violence." It is not known what Budhwani's views would be about national police force involvement with NGOs of the NCCM sort.
As for the handbook, it would ban all the usual terms, even declaring verboten the expression "moderate Muslims," because, said the authors, the expression is meant to imply that Muslims are not uniformly moderate. Parents are warned to be on the lookout for "External and overt expression of hyper-religiosity that is uncharacteristic of family culture," although one can only guess what to do, should this hyper-religiosity be altogether characteristic "of family culture." Elsewhere, the handbook seems a bit too eager to divorce radicalism and intense religiosity from the risk of religious violence. There was also rather too much emphasis, for some tastes, on Muslims' legal right to avoid cooperating with the RCMP. Readers would also recognize a continuation of the hallmarked NCCM/CAIR-CAN and CAIR campaign to push the generally unconvincing – and increasingly alienating and dangerous – Muslim victimhood narrative. This came replete with familiar attempts to propagate the word "Islamophobia," a term condemned by moderate Muslims as too-often wielded by Islamists to silence debate.

As Tarek Fatah, a well-known Pakistani-Canadian moderate, wrote, a few years ago:

Canada is a country where Muslims are respected and accommodated like in no other land on Earth, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is immoral for the Islamists to slander my country with the slur of Islamophobia. As Statistics Canada has shown, incidents of racism in Canada are far more likely to affect Christian black Canadians and Jewish Canadians than Muslims. …

"However," he concluded, "truth is the first casualty in this propaganda war being waged against Canada by its own Islamists."

For all this, the NCCM-ISSA-RCMP handbook then managed to go one better.

"Whom do we consult to gain an accurate understanding of our faith?" it asked. The answer was a list of scholar-interpreters of Islam who could apparently be relied upon in the delicate counter-radicalization context. The list reveals that it is not merely in the censorship department that Islamists have put one over on unduly compliant – and perhaps intimidated – RCMP outreach officers.

Among the recommended scholars, there's the startlingly hardline Ingrid Mattson (name misspelled in the handbook), former head of the Islamic Society of North America, an unindicted co-conspirator organization that was connected by the already-mentioned district court to Hamas. Mattson's Islamic chair at Huron University College, Ontario, notoriously benefits from significant radical-Islamic endowments. The scholar was last seen fending off complaints from a student claiming to have been jettisoned from Mattson's tax-funded classroom because he was non-Muslim.

Then there's the distinguished Imam Siraj Wahhaj, of the World Trade Center Wahhajs. His patchwork record involves alternately condemning violence and appearing to lust after it. Plus, the unappetizing Ziad Shakir. Not to mention the inevitable Jamal Badawi, former long-time CAIR-CAN/NCCM official. He's an unindicted co-conspirator his own right, someone who sat on ISNA's executive board (majlis). Badawi advocates light physical sharia discipline for errant wives. It remains unclear how the Badawi matrimonial approach aligns with the high-thinking and good works of handbooker Shahina Siddiqui and her Islamic Social Services Association.

Such are the moderate sherpas who guide the perplexed up counter-radicalization's gentle slopes.

No wonder many members of the public reacted with disbelief and disgust to the handbook fiasco. Or that RCMP ranks fell into a mass of post-publication panic and confusion. The day after the handbook's roll-out, a blushed-out RCMP, getting desperate enquiries from Canada's now-mortified Office of the Minister of Public Safety, scrambled out a news release. It said that the force was responsible for only one (benign) section of the handbook, and claimed improbably that the "tone" of some of the publication had caused the RCMP to pull out of the project at the last minute. Awfully "last minute," considering it was the day after launch that the RCMP news release emerged.

Thus, Mountie supremos regard bad "tone" as the actionable offense, rather than content prescribing self-hobbling wartime censorship and jihad-happy fire-breathers as counter-radical consultants. And no explanation why, days later, the handbook still bears the horsemen's name and logo. Or why the force hadn't publicly threatened legal action to have their name removed from it. Nor was there a commitment that RCMP HQ would at long last heed warnings, quit self-defeating, hardline-Islamist outreach, and publicly condemn the NCCM and its ilk – in the same way the Canadian prime minister's own director of communications had condemned NCCM for alleged Hamas-type connections, in January.

Especially in light of the contretemps between the prime minister's office and NCCM, there is floating over the handbook the unmistakable odor of a settling of accounts, an odor that might make the RCMP commissioner and his boss, the Public Safety minister, queasy about their continuing government employability. It was, after all, their diligence-free outreach that gave NCCM and ISSA the chance to make a fool out of the Prime Minister of Canada. For deep within the little handbook (p.34), comes a warning that law enforcement should never use the term "Islamicism." In Canada, this ungainly word – never in common use elsewhere, "Islamism" instead prevailing – is almost exclusively associated with a remark by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, one that was condemned by Islamists. "[T]he major threat," said Harper, in a headline-making 2011 CBC television interview, "is still Islamicism." The Islamists were riled up by Harper's effrontery, at the time, and so seem to have incorporated a touch of revenge in the handbook. This would not be the first RCMP outreach-driven embarrassment for a Canadian government, including a mess-up that may have involved an Iranian government operative.

In any event, the more nasty of observers looked at the RCMP's follow-on news release and wondered. Why, given the embarrassment and damage – and knuckle-rapping insult to their prime minister – did the release pull so many punches? Could this restraint mean that certain senior officials, compromised by outré outreach, were now scared to bear down? Was there a belief that Islamist "partners" should not be alienated, lest they be tempted to expose details of years of misguided interaction upon which certain RCMP executives had built careers?

The answer remains a mystery. But skeptical interpretations became more plausible to some, when the force's non-condemnatory news release came out more or less simultaneously with an NCCM release saluting RCMP cooperation with the Islamist group. Had all the loose liaising achieved the ultimate inversion, with the RCMP – and through it, the government – being turned into strange victims in a counter-radicalization Stockholm syndrome? Why, for that matter, are reliably moderate Canadian Muslim organizations like Muslims Facing Tomorrow and the Muslim Canadian Congress, enjoying hardly a fraction of the reinforcing, and capacity-building attentions splashed all over Islamists?

So, did the RCMP realize that it would be taken to the cleaners, and wind up helping NCCM and ISSA launder language and radicals via a counter-radicalization handbook? Maybe. But perhaps self-stifling in national security is now so internalized in the United States and Canada that it never occurs to some that certain people are radicals, and that radicals are not always our friends. Or the best guides to counter radicalization.

Burgeoning threats mean that citizens must press Washington and Ottawa to return to good sense, and put a stop to the deadly contagion of self-censorship and self-deceit – and worse – now hazarding national security and public safety.

Americans and Canadians must defeat the disease by curing their thinking.

A lawyer with 30 years' experience in intelligence affairs, David B. Harris is director of the International Intelligence Program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc, Ottawa, Canada. The author is not responsible for the accuracy of, or views conveyed in, material in the links provided.
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: October 12, 2014, 01:55:40 PM
This article comes highly recommended to me by someone who was well outside the wire, working with Iraqi interpreters, during lively times.   I would quibble with some aspects of his description of the Bush strategy and of what Bush handed over to Obama, but on the whole I think this piece rather deep. 

Vainly I note that most of its recommendations parallel mine from August and last month. 
244  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: How to defeat the Islamic State on: October 12, 2014, 01:24:47 PM
This article comes highly recommended to me by someone who was well outside the wire, working with Iraqi interpreters, during lively times.

I would quibble with some aspects of his description of the Bush strategy, but on the whole I think this piece rather deep.  Vainly I note that most of its recommendations parallel mine. 
245  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Estalilla at the IAMA on: October 12, 2014, 01:04:07 PM
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Serious Read: Qatar on: October 12, 2014, 11:46:56 AM
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dutch do it without smoke and mirrors on: October 12, 2014, 11:37:35 AM

Imagine a place where pensions were not an ever-deepening quagmire, where the numbers told the whole story and where workers could count on a decent retirement.

Imagine a place where regulators existed to make sure everyone followed the rules.

That place might just be the Netherlands. And it could provide an example for America’s troubled cities, or for states like Illinois and New Jersey that have promised more in pension benefits than they can deliver.

“The rest of the world sort of laughs at the United States — how can a great country like the United States get so many things wrong?” said Keith Ambachtsheer, a Dutch pension specialist who works at the University of Toronto — specifically at its Rotman International Center for Pension Management, a global clearinghouse of information on how successful retirement systems work.

Going Dutch, however, can be painful. Dutch pensions are scrupulously funded, unlike many United States plans, and are required to tally their liabilities with brutal honesty, using a method that is common in the financial-services industry but rejected by American public pension funds.

"Everybody wants safety and everybody wants an affordable system, and you can’t have both. It’s become a major public debate in the Netherlands,” said Keith Ambachtsheer, a Dutch pension specialist.

The Dutch system rests on the idea that each generation should pay its own costs — and that the costs must be measured accurately if that is to happen. After the financial collapse of 2008, workers and retirees in the Netherlands took the bitter medicine needed to rebuild their collective nest eggs quickly, with higher contributions from workers and benefit cuts for pensioners.

The Dutch approach bears little resemblance to the American practice of shielding the current generation of workers, retirees and taxpayers while pushing costs and risks into the future, where they can metastasize unseen. The most recent data suggest that public funds in the United States are holding just 67 cents for every dollar they owe to current and future pensioners, and in some places the strain is palpable. The Netherlands, by contrast, have no Detroits (no cities going bankrupt because pension costs grew while the population shrank), no Puerto Ricos (territories awash in debt but with no access to bankruptcy court) and nothing like an Illinois or New Jersey, where elected officials kicked the can down the road so many times that it finally hit a dead end.

About 90 percent of Dutch workers earn real pensions at their jobs. Their benefits are intended to amount to about 70 percent of their lifetime average pay, as many financial planners recommend. For this and other reasons, the Netherlands has for years been at or near the top of global pension rankings compiled by Mercer, the consulting firm, and the Australian Center for Financial Studies, among others.

Accomplishing this feat — solid workplace pensions for most citizens — isn’t easy. For one thing, it’s expensive. Dutch workers typically sock away nearly 18 percent of their pay, most of it in diversified, professionally run pension funds. That compares with 16.4 percent for American workers, but most of that is for Social Security, which is intended to provide just 40 percent of a middle-class worker’s income in retirement.

Dutch employers contribute to their system, too, but their payments are usually capped. While that may seem a counterintuitive way to make sure that pensions are well funded, it actually encourages companies to stick with pension plans. If the markets drop, Dutch employers do not receive urgent calls to pump in more money — the kind of cash calls that have prompted so many American companies to stop offering pensions. In the private sector, only 14 percent of Americans with retirement plans at work have defined-benefit pension plans — the ones that offer the most security — compared with 38 percent who had them in 1979. And if the markets rally and a Dutch pension fund earns more than it needs, the employers are not allowed to touch the surplus. In the United States, companies have found many ways to tap a pension surplus. The problem today is that there usually is no surplus left.

Dutch companies, as well as public-sector employers, typically band together by sector in big, pooled pension plans, then hire nonprofit firms to invest the money. Terms are negotiated sectorwide in talks that resemble American-style collective bargaining.

This vast collaborative process may sound too slow, too unwieldy and maybe even too socialist for American tastes. But standing guard over it is a decidedly capitalist watchdog, the Dutch central bank. More than a decade ago, after the dot-com collapse, a director of the central bank warned of a looming pension funding crisis. In response, the central bank in 2002 began to require pension funds to keep at least $1.05 on hand for every dollar they would have to pay in future benefits. If a fund fell below the line, it had just three years to recover.

American public pension funds have no such minimum requirement, and even if they did, there is no regulator to enforce it. Company pensions are bound by federal funding rules, but Congress has a tendency to soften them.

The Dutch central bank also imposed a rigorous method for measuring the current value of all pensions due in the future. Pensions are not supposed to be risky, so the Dutch measure them the same way the market prices very safe bonds, like Treasuries — that is, by discounting the future payments to today’s dollars with a very low interest rate. This method shows that a stable lifelong benefit is very valuable, and therefore very expensive to fund.

Notably, the Dutch central bank prohibited the measurement method that virtually all American states and cities use, which is based on the hope that strong market gains on pension investments will make the benefits cheaper. A significant downside to this method is that it lets pension systems take advantage of market gains today, but pushes the risk of losses into the future, for others to cope with. “We had lengthy discussions about this in the Netherlands,” said Theo Kocken, an economist who teaches at the Free University in Amsterdam and is the founder of Cardano, a risk analysis firm. “But all economists now agree. The expected-return approach is a huge economic offense, hurting younger generations.”

He explained that in the Netherlands, regulators believe that basing the cost of benefits today on possible investment gains tomorrow is the same as robbing tomorrow’s workers to pay for today’s excesses.

"The expected-return approach is a huge economic offense, hurting younger generations,” said Theo Kocken, a Dutch economist.

Most public pension officials in the United States reject this view, saying governments can wait out bear markets because governments, unlike companies, don’t go out of business.

For years, economists have been calling on American cities and states to measure pensions the Dutch way. And, in fact, California’s big state pension system, Calpers, sometimes calculates a city’s total obligation by that method. When Stockton went bankrupt, for instance, Calpers recalculated and found that the city owed it $1.6 billion. Of course, Stockton is insolvent and does not have an extra $1.6 billion, but Christopher Klein, a bankruptcy judge, has said that federal bankruptcy law permits it to walk away from the debt. Calpers disagrees, setting up a clash that seems destined for the United States Supreme Court.

But most of the time, when someone in the United States calls for Dutch-style measurements, pension officials suspect a ploy to show public pensions in the worst possible light, to make them easier to abolish.

“They want to create a false report, to create a crisis,” said Barry Kasinitz, director of government affairs for the International Association of Fire Fighters, after members of Congress introduced a bill to require the Dutch method.

The Dutch say their approach is, in fact, supposed to prevent a crisis — the crisis that will ensue if the boomer generation retires without fully funded benefits. Their $1.05 minimum is really just a minimum; pension funds are encouraged to keep an even bigger surplus, to help them weather market shocks. The Dutch sailed into the global collapse of 2008 with $1.45 for every dollar of benefits owed, far more than they appeared to need. But when the dust settled, they were down to just 90 cents. The damage was so bad that the central bank gave them a breather: They had five years to get back to the $1.05 minimum, instead of the usual three.

American public plans emerged from the crisis in worse shape, on the whole, and many allowed themselves 30 years to recover. But 30 years is so long that the boomer generation will have retired by then, and the losses will have been pushed far into the future for others to repay.

It’s a recipe for disaster if the employer happens to be a city like Detroit. The city’s pension system used a 30-year schedule to cover losses but reset it at “Year 1” every year, a tactic employed in a surprising number of places. In Detroit, it meant the city never replaced the money that the pension system lost. When Detroit finally declared bankruptcy last year, an outside review found a $3.5 billion shortfall, one of the biggest claims of the bankruptcy. Manipulating the 30-year funding schedule had helped to hide it.

“This happening in the Netherlands is totally out of the question,” Mr. Kocken said.

While the Netherlands has a stellar reputation for saving, that doesn’t mean pensions have been without controversy there; in fact, a loud, intergenerational debate is occurring about how to manage pensions. The financial crisis raised new calls for reform, Mr. Ambachtsheer said. Retirees were shocked and angry to have their pensions cut by an average of 2 percent after the crash. That had never happened before, and many had no idea that cuts were even possible. A new political party, 50Plus, sprang up to defend the interests of older citizens and won two seats in the national Parliament.

But something else happened: Dutch young people found their voice. No matter their employment sector, they could see that their pension money was commingled with retirees’ money, then invested that way by the outside asset management firms. In the wake of the financial crisis, they realized that they and the retirees had fundamentally opposing interests. The young people were eager to keep taking investment risk, to take advantage of their long time horizon. But the retirees now wanted absolute safety, which meant investing in risk-free, cashlike assets. If all the money remained pooled, young people said, the aggressive investment returns they wanted would be diluted by the pittance that cashlike assets pay.

“Now the question is, ‘How do you resolve this dilemma?’ ” Mr. Ambachtsheer said. “Everybody wants safety and everybody wants an affordable system, and you can’t have both. It’s become a major public debate in the Netherlands.”

It’s a debate that is rarely, if ever, heard in the United States.
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